After seeing couples square off in divorce-themed Oscar-bait like Marriage Story, director-writer William Nicholson’s small, understated film is a welcome relief.

The sheer screen presence Annette Bening and Bill Nighy bring elegance and depth to this story of a husband — tired of never measuring up — who leaves his wife in their twilight years.

Further complicating things is their adult son’s reluctant mediation, caught in the middle of two aged parents, despite his insistence he doesn’t want to be part of the dissolution.

Director Nicholson has written fantastic films, like Unbroken, Gladiator and more. With Hope Gap, he produces his major directorial debut and shows the world he can helm a disquieting drama with as much force as he used to write Russell Crowe battle cries.

He allows Nighy and Bening room to show their emotions without ever elevating into farce or venomous tongues. The feelings are real, and the pain we feel for this couple is searing. This is on account of these two brilliant actors.

A huge surprise is God’s Own Country co-star Josh O’Connor, who turns in a fantastic performance as the wayward, torn son Jamie. He’s got a major career ahead of him, and I absolutely loved him here.

Hope Gap is a divorce drama unlike anything I’ve seen in a while, and it’s worth a glance for the unbelievable acting alone.

Jordan Parker is a PR professional and journalist in Halifax, and these reviews appear first on his film blog Parker & the Picture Shows.