From the revered initial story by Jim Shepard comes a film adaptation for The World To Come. It’s a film that managed to reel in the highest acting pedigree available, but none of the human emotion of its source material.
It’s a film that plays out like a slow-burn romantic drama, with none of the mounting dread to accompany it. Its twists and turns seem jarring, and its third act is less the culmination of the film’s momentum than it is a thrown together afterthought.
The premise — if well-wrought — is still serviceable. Two couples in mid-19th century America become forever entangled when the two matriarchs begin an affair. They find love and a resolute solution to the isolation they feel from their own husbands, and kindle something beautiful together.
Casey Affleck and a gruff Christopher Abbott are good as the male leads, though actors of this standing should always be held to a higher standard. It’s a shame the script doesn’t allow them to reach much higher than they do.
Vanessa Kirby, being widely touted for an Oscar nod for her Pieces Of A Woman role right now – has some passion in her character, but she’s brought down by the often-melancholic nature of overall lead Katherine Waterston.
For such a formidable actress, Waterston seems to struggle to breathe some life into her character, whose voice looms over the film via narration in a destitute fashion.
They play broken women with nary an emotion between them, one abused by her husband and the other having just lost a child, but the comfort they find together makes their lives bearable. It doesn’t take much deduction to know a tragedy will be afoot in the final third, but director Mona Fastvold might have done well to ratchet up the tension a little bit.
She’s written incredible screenplays – for Vox Lux and The Mustang, respectively – and one wishes she’d have spent some time punching up this script. Her second directorial feature would have been much better had that happened.