From silent-film pioneer Edwin S. Porter to Fox’s 24, split screen has had a long and not entirely happy history, often employed less as a meaningful storytelling device than as a gimmick for livening up overfamiliar material. While not entirely immune to this charge, Conversations with Other Women, which unfolds over a single night in dual frame (each moment is shot from two different angles, with both perspectives shown simultaneously side by side), uses the technique to surprising and ultimately moving effect.
An unnamed man and woman (Eckhart and Bonham Carter) strike up a conversation at a New York wedding reception, and as their talk deepens, it becomes clear that they have known each other intimately sometime in the distant past. Onscreen for virtually the entire film, Eckhart and especially Bonham Carter are exceptional. Repeatedly referring to her companion’s current postcollegiate girlfriend as “23 on August the 12th,” Bonham Carter speaks with a mixture of playful irony, faint disapproval and even fainter envy. Gabrielle Zevin’s subtle script—funny, rueful and sometimes both at once—could have stood on its own merits, but the dual frame slyly annotates the verbal pas de deux, flashing back, flashing forward, giving momentary life to the characters’ fleeting thoughts and visualizing both the inevitability of aging and the utter impossibility of recapturing the past. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Land