A biographical investigation into Swann, a poet brutally murdered by her husband, directs Sarah Maloney towards Rose, a personal friend of the poet. The two women form and intense bond, which is strained by Rose's reluctance to divulge information about her relationship with Swann.
Based on a Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Carol Shields, this would-be highbrow spin on the female bonding genre starts as a promising detective story but degenerates into a sombre, mundane character study involving characters unworthy of the attention.
Richardson plays Sarah Maloney, a successful, high-powered author writing a biography of Mary Swann, a privately published poet who was brutally murdered by her husband. Visiting the backwater where Swann lived, Maloney meets Rose (Fricker) the last person to see the poet alive and who has established a small museum dedicated to her memory. The two women become friends, but the bond is threatened by Rose's reluctance to reveal her personal relationship to the poet and her writings.
The idea of examining the different worlds of two women drawn together by an off-screen catalyst is potentially intriguing, yet Gyles does not extract enough dramatic mileage from the contrast: indeed, subplots depicting Maloney's romantic dalliances and Rose's ailing health add neither complexity nor insight. Moreover the concerns of the film are delivered with sledgehammer authority.
On the plus side, there are some nice jibes at literary world pretensions and the whole thing is lensed with a sparse, elegant feel. Richardson breezes through her role with brash aplomb and Fricker employs her trademark warmth to quiet effect, but both performances are deflated by the film's ponderous pace and anything approaching a satisyfing conclusion.
A film that loses pace and interest due to its degeneration into a mundane character study about dull characters.