Just In Time

Director: John Carney/Tom Hall

John Carney and Tom Hall follow their much acclaimed low-budget debut November Afternoon with another incisive drama that cuts deep in its examination of contemporary relationships. Just In Time focuses on a middle-aged couple, Frank (Gerard McSorley) and Maria (Frances Barber), who go to their shared country cottage to spend a weekend away in an attempt to rekindle their relationship, which has recently gone through a difficult period. However, the tranquillity of their quiet retreat is spoilt by the unexpected arrival of Michael (Michael McElhatton), an academic colleague of Frank who co-owns the cottage. Michael unsettles Frank and Maria by arriving with his mistress, Kate (Hilary Reynolds), as they had always held up his marriage as the perfect example of a harmonious partnership.
Carney and Hall have a knack for bringing out the underlying tensions in their characters without resorting to histrionics. There’s a palpable sense of unease in Frank right from his first appearance. Returning from London where he’s writing a book, he’s joined in the taxi by a woman with whom he’s had a relationship. Clearly uncomforable with her amorous attentions, he can’t wait to get to the airport. Even more acutely observed is the excruciating encounter between the two couples, who are almost lost for words in their shared embarrassment. When they are forced to pull themselves together because a car refuses to facilitate any escape, there’s a wonderful sequence where the men and women walk together along a winding country road, tentatively and evasively trying to communicate. The film itself isn’t evasive, as it moves slowly but surely to the heart of the matter – the lies and guilt that create an emotional void.

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