A scary, sad story of a husband living on after his wife's death

Ciaran Hinds' character in "The Eclipse" may get help in dealing with his wife's death from an author played by Iben Hjejle.
Ciaran Hinds' character in "The Eclipse" may get help in dealing with his wife's death from an author played by Iben Hjejle.
Posted: April 09, 2010

Ciaran Hinds, the brooding Irishman who does regal and unscrupulous with seeming effortlessness (see his Julius Caesar in HBO's Rome), tries something different, and deeper, in The Eclipse.

Directed by Irish playwright Conor McPherson, from a Billy Roche short story that McPherson spiked with supernatural elements, the film follows Hinds' Michael Farr, a grieving widower, as he's hired to chauffeur a visiting author around town during a literary festival.

The novelist, Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle), trades in ghostly spirits, and Farr, left to care for his two children, and left in dire emotional straits, has been rattled by the sudden and spooky appearances of a gruesome ghoul. It pops up, joltingly, while he's driving, or grabs at him from beneath the armoire where his wife used to keep her clothes.

Farr is understandably shaken by these incidents, and perhaps this London-based writer, an intelligent, attractive woman whose books are filled with spirits and specters, can help.

Set in the strikingly beautiful County Cork town of Cobh, where a cathedral looms over hills that tier down into a busy harbor, The Eclipse is about death and sadness, rebirth and possibility. The film is anchored by Hinds' performance - the actor brings a soulful melancholy to the proceedings, but in ways that register subtly, making the man's loss seem all the more real.

The quiet scenes of Farr with his daughter and son, fixing meals in the kitchen, seeing to the family dog, speak volumes about the absence in their lives.

And Aidan Quinn appears in the comically menacing role of Nicholas Holden, a narcissistic novelist, and a married man, whose obsession with Lena Morelle (he's a stalker, practically!) puts him at odds with Farr.

Hinds' and Quinn's climactic faceoff provides a deft mix of farce and ferocity, and McPherson - of the Tony-nominated The Seafarer - gives his cast choice dialogue that is telling, tart, smart, illuminating.

As for the scary business - it is, indeed, scary, delivered with an intensity that will make you think twice the next time you find yourself driving alone, or opening a closet door when no one else happens to be around.

The Eclipse *** (Out of four stars)

Directed by Conor McPherson. With Ciaran Hinds, Iben Hjejle, and Aidan Quinn. Distributed by Magnolia Pictures.

Running time: 1 hour, 28 mins.

Parent's guide: R (supernatural scares, profanity, adult themes)

Playing at: Ritz at the Bourse

Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com. Read his blog, at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/onmovies/

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