Visually Sumptuous Here a Sadly Forgettable Travelogue
Just off the Amalfi Coast, Jane (Kate Bosworth) has come to the Island of Ischia with her classical musician husband Leonard (Iddo Goldberg). He’s there for a series of concerts. She in turn intends to use the time in relative seclusion to finally write a long-planned book based on her grandmother’s WWII stories (voiced by Claire Bloom). But loneliness coupled with the emotionality of her grandma’s recollections, as well as Leonard’s seeming indifference to his wife’s needs, lead her to explore the island. In doing so Jane makes the acquaintance of drifting American student Caleb (Jamie Blackley) and quickly enters into a passionate affair with the young man.
Written and directed by Kat Coiro (Life Happens), the European-set fidelity drama And While We Were Here has a lot going for it, not the least of which is a lived-in, emotionally complex performance by star Bosworth, not to mention sumptuous, sun-drenched cinematography from Doug Chamberlain (I’m Reed Fish). At a brisk 83 minutes the movie is over almost before you know it, the filmmaker letting her simple, straight-forward story do exactly what it needs to and little else, all of it presented without any unnecessary embellishments.
The issue? I didn’t care about anything that was going on. Jane is, on the surface, an intriguing and interesting character, but the men in her life are such faceless one-dimensional empty shells I found it frustratingly difficult to get a handle on her pain. Her irritations and complaints felt a little whiny, and while Leonard certainly appears to have more than his share of flaws I can’t say the script or the movie makes them concrete enough for her subsequent actions to emotionally hit home. The film often feels and looks like nothing more than a nondescript travelogue only one that throws in a few melodramatic tears for good measure, and as such my investment in Jane along with her journey towards self-actualization ended up being fairly close to nil.
Which is too bad because Bosworth is terrific, the actress investing Jane with so much emotional baggage and intuitive intelligence that I really did want to like the character far more than I sadly did. Always something of an underrated talent, she showcases an authentic emotive dexterity and is unafraid to ugly herself up a bit, in the process potentially risking that the audience will turn on her, not appearing to care a lick if they do. It’s a warts and all presentation, and as hard a time as I had understanding the reasons behind the woman’s actions that didn’t mean I still didn’t relate to Jane on a deeply personal level and that’s in large part all thanks to Bosworth’s performance.
If only Coiro’s script did near as much with the two men in its protagonist’s life as it does with her. Caleb is a pretty boy fantasy, nothing more, Blackley’s smug, self-satisfied depiction of him not one I was drawn to in any way whatsoever. As for Goldberg, he has one fantastic moment during the climactic act where Leonard finally reveals his heart to Jane in a way he’s been aching to hear for awhile now, the heartfelt sincerity what he’s saying undeniable. Problem is, it all comes way too late in the proceedings, the stiff rigidity of the actor’s performance making his declaration sadly fall on deaf years.
I do appreciate what Coiro is attempting, and I adore that she’s written a part for Bosworth that utilizes her talents in a way so few other filmmakers have. But the movie, along with its never fully realized scenario, annoyingly did little for me. I simply didn’t care what happened to Jane, didn’t have interest in what it was she was going to do or saw any reason for her to be mewing over these two wildly different men like she was. And While We Were Here comes across like a well-intentioned missed opportunity, and while writer/director Coiro has earned a place on my radar she’s going to have to craft something better than this next time out if she’s going to stay there.
Film Rating: 2 (out of 4)