Having impressed greatly with the romantic drama Omar, Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad now tries his hand in the English language for the very first time, and while an entirely different narrative – yet again he delves into the notion of love in the face of adversity, of two people vying to be together in spite of the challenging circumstances. Yet again, he’s created something wonderfully romantic.
With a storm on the horizon, planes are being cancelled at short notice – which comes as a huge blow to passengers, and strangers, Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) and Ben Bass (Idris Elba), for while the former is getting married the following day, the latter, a doctor, is due to conduct some important surgery. So the pair work together to get to their destination, at any cost, persuading an independent pilot (Beau Bridges) to brave the storm and allow them on board his modest sized aircraft. But when he suffers from a stroke while flying, they crash-land in the vast, snowy wilderness – and as the pilot dies, leaving only his pet dog, the pair must find a way to survive, with time running out. So they do what any person would do in this life-threatening situation. They kiss.
The Mountain Between Us is a somewhat ordinary romantic piece, that adheres faithfully to the tropes of the genre at hand, never quite transcending, nor subverting expectations in that regard. But there’s a comfortability to such familiarity, and while generic in parts, this ordinary film is elevated by its extraordinary leading duo, as both Winslet and Elba shine. What also helps to maintain the pace – and the viewer’s investment – is the pacing of the narrative, as Abu-Assad must be commended for managing to keep this compelling, despite the mostly single setting and just having two characters. But there are brief moments of humour and light-relief injected into proceedings without contrivance, and several moments of peril too, ensuring tedium doesn’t kick in as we anticipate the film’s conclusion.
The finale consists, really, of the lone question – will they survive or not? And about halfway through the film you realise you know so little about the protagonists, with so little back story implemented into the film. But that’s sort of the point as you grow to understand them both just as the other is, and the fact we know so little almost enhances the notion of them being strangers falling in love. So by the close of play you do care if they survive – particularly given they’ve got a dog beside them you want to see live. The only problem is, you aren’t quite so fussed as to whether they get together. Which, in a romantic film of this nature, poses something of a problem.