Movie review: Little to care about in 'The Eclipse'

Al Alexander

We’ve all heard of lunar eclipses, but playwright Conor McPherson has gone and added a loony “Eclipse” to the lexicon.

That’s the title of his ill-conceived hybrid awkwardly melding cupid and ghosts in a ghastly, nonsensical brew. I’ve seen paint dry with more urgency than what’s on display in this languid movie about a middle-aged widower (the great Ciaran Hinds) who has the good fortune to begin a spirited romance with a horror novelist (Iben Hjejle) just about the same time he starts seeing what he perceives to be ghosts.

Aren’t coincidences grand? They certainly are to McPherson and co-writer Billy Roche. They pile them on at will in this tedious tale of grief, longing and renewal. The problem is that they do it without making any of it the least bit compelling.

You go along with it for a while, simply because Hinds is such a fine actor, particularly when it comes to conveying the emotional load his Michael Farr is carrying atop his broad shoulders.

Still reeling from his wife’s death two years earlier and struggling to stay involved in the lives of his young son (Eanna Hardwicke) and teen daughter (Hannah Lynch), Michael is a lost, humorless soul.

Or at least he is until his love of writing puts him in the company of Hjejle’s Lena Morelle, an internationally known expert on the supernatural who has come to the lovely seaside Irish village of Cobh for a literary conference.

As a volunteer, Michael hits the lottery when he’s assigned the enviable task of ferrying the smart and beautiful Lena to and from her remote hotel to the event. Naturally, their conversations during those long journeys eventually turn to ghosts.

Like a schmoe asking his lawyer friend for legal advice, Michael quizzes her about the unusual events he’s been witnessing late at night, when he swears he can see things moving about.

Might it be the ghost of his dead wife, who he still carries a torch for? The spirits of the former residents of his modest manse? Jacob Marley? If only we cared.

Less interesting is the love triangle that takes shape once Aidan Quinn’s pompous drunk, Nicholas Holden, arrives on the scene to bask in the adulation of his fellow authors and re-ignite his romance with Lena, with whom he shares a bed when he’s not sleeping with his wife.

Beyond an excuse for Quinn to overact, his cliche-ridden character lacks any sort of reason to exist. Unfortunately, the same can be said for Michael’s “visions.” They simply aren’t interesting, nor do they make any rational sense.

The film’s most glaring flaw, though, has got to be the utter lack of chemistry between Hinds and the vapid Hjejle, who is as bland here as she was opposite John Cusack in “High Fidelity.”

With her blond hair, pale skin and icy personality, she’s more of a ghost than the one Michael sees popping up in his house and car.

That leaves it entirely up to Hinds to save the day, but even he is overmatched. It’s a shame, too, because the longtime character actor (“Munich”) truly deserves a starring role in something more worthy than a ghost story in which you’re doing more booing than the spooks.

Reach Patriot Ledger writer Al Alexander

THE ECLIPSE (Unrated.) Cast includes Ciaran Hinds, Iben Hjejle and Aidan Quinn. Co-written and directed by Conor McPherson. 1 star out of 4.