Appearances to the contrary, The Mountain Between Us (20th Century Fox, 10.6) is not Touching The Void with a love story on the side but a love story with Touching The Void on the side, except it’s not as good as Touching The Void. Plus it’s a love story from hell, or certainly one afflicted with crabby vibes
Photojournalist Alex (Kate Winslet) and Ben (Idris Elba), a mild-mannered surgeon, decide to share the cost of a chartered small plane after their commercial flight is grounded at some airport in Idaho. Their older, overweight pilot (Beau Bridges) suffers a mid-flight stroke and they wind up crashing atop a mountain. They both survive, but after two or three days it’s clear they’ll have to hike their way down to civilization. Various threats manifest (predators, foul weather, hunger, a near-fatal fall, thin ice) but you knew that going in.
The best kind of hetero love story is one in which (a) a profound connection has occured and you’re dying for the would-be lovers to make something out of it, but (b) they don’t due to some overriding expectation or previous commitment or third-act tragedy. The worst kind of love story is one in which the woman is obviously a high-strung, Type-A ballbuster (Kate) and the guy is too thick to understand what he’s run into, and then he falls for her and they fuck and so on, and your feelings for him are torn between pity and contempt.
I saw The Mountain Between Us at the Toronto Film Festival, and you could just feel the “oh, no” current in the room. Everyone knew that Idris had made the wrong move. I was telepathically screaming “fuck, dude…you have a life and an honorable profession and many responsibilities back east, and you’re becoming romantically interested in a woman who’s obviously no day at the beach on top of trying to survive amid snow and icy temperatures and mountain lions?….what are you doing, man?”
I believed in Winslet as an object d’amour 20 years ago in Titanic, but that’s the glow of youth. Now she’s 42 and a bit weather-worn. She’s been through this and that with kids and a divorce and a house fire and everything else, and you can just tell by her anxious, fretful expression in those stills from Woody Allen‘s Wonder Wheel that she’s a stressed-out, high-maintenance handful.
I didn’t hate The Mountain Between Us, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed when it ended.