The Escape Review

The Escape
On the outside, Tara Ainsworth (Gemma Arterton) seems to have it all: husband (Dominic Cooper), two kids, two cars, a conservatory. Yet inside, she is dying a slow death — until a picture book ignites a revolution in her heart and mind.

by Ian Freer |
Published on
Release Date:

03 Aug 2018

Original Title:

The Escape

Heart-wrenching but dispassionate, intelligent but empathetic, subtle but raw, The Escape is a riveting portrait of a woman trapped living the wrong life. Written and directed by Dominic Savage, best known for TV dramas such as True Love and The Secrets, its secret weapon is Gemma Arterton, who beautifully illuminates a stay-at-home mother who seemingly has it all but feels emotionally, spiritually, intellectually bereft. She is a revelation, displaying depths, colours and truths you could never imagine watching The Prince Of Persia.

The Escape

For it’s first half at least, The Escape is a postcard from the edge sent by one desperate housewife. One half of a working class couple made good, Arterton’s Tara is in a crumbling marriage to Mark (Cooper) with two children she has no natural feeling for. Her days are a miasma of nursery runs, peeling veg and cleaning up spills, yet on a trip to London she gets a spark of another life in the form of a picture book she discovers at a South Bank stall. The Lady And The Unicorn, the story of Medieval French tapestries housed in Paris, awakens a need to nourish her soul beyond her Kent semi.

This is Arterton’s show, delivering a journey from despair to an earned enlightenment without a false beat.

The couple’s arguments are subsequently brutal, yet Savage’s writing finds subtler ways to show the gulf between husband and wife, such as a simple exchange about butternut squash. While stylistically it feels European, almost Dardenne Brothers-like in its observational style and accumulation of telling details over plot, Tara’s ennui is movingly etched in very British surroundings, be it the car park at Asda, mid-range restaurants or the mind-numbing tedium of family barbecues.

Cooper’s Mark isn’t evil, just myopic to his wife’s needs, steadfast in the conviction that providing for his family is enough — the actor perfectly etches his befuddlement and anger that she doesn’t appreciate his effort. But this is Arterton’s show, delivering a journey from despair to an earned enlightenment without a false beat. It’s a film ostensibly built on close-ups of her face and, be it her tears during anal sex or listening to voicemail messages from her children, you cannot take her eyes off her.

When Tara finally makes her escape, the film enters a more movie-movie zone, the colours become brighter, the music more lyrical. Although there are still twists in the tale, Savage is less sure-footed with wish fulfilment than he is with marital discord. Still the brilliance of Arterton ensures you’ll care. And then some.

A kind of Ken Loach does Shirley Valentine, The Escape is not a comfortable watch. But it is a rewarding one, thanks to Dominic Savage’s forensic investigation of a disintegrating marriage and career-best work by Gemma Arterton.
Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us