Actor Gemma Arterton is among Harper’s Bazaar UK’s ‘Women of the Year’, featured in the December 2018 issue. Gemma is styled by Miranda Almond with images by Richard Phibbs. /Hair by Perrine Rougemont; makeup by Anita Keeling
Arterton began as a Bond Girl, but now dedicates herself to playing strong female characters with a story to tell, writes Juliet Nicolson.
Writing about Arterton’s new film ‘The Escape’, Nicolson describes a moment in this ordinary, young wife’s morning.
Her boorish husband Mark, superbly played by Dominic Cooper, just doesn’t get her. He loves her in his own selfish, on-the-brink-of-abuse way, a relationship that Arterton says is ‘past its sell-by date’. Physical satisfaction is a one-sided process in Mark’s favour. The opportunity for a woman to say no to sex does not present itself easily within marriage, the backlash too great to risk. So Arterton’s Tara gives in to early-morning ‘conjugal rights’; in one agonising scene, she splays the fingers of one hand behind Mark’s back, stretching upwards in a silent yell of despair. As the camera lingers in an unforgiving close-up on Tara’s face, devoid of cosmetic gloss, the subtlest shift of expression reflects an inner despair, then her full beauty emerges when a rare smile illuminates her face, a curtain drawn back, sunshine flooding a darkened room. But the script belongs to the actors. Arterton found improvisation liberating and exciting. ‘It is up to you to react, and that can change everything in a moment.’ The transition she makes from acting the part to being the part is seamless. It is a brave, disturbing, profoundly moving piece of cinema. As the Guardian reviewer said, in a film with ‘no wrong notes’ it was also ‘unbearably painful’. When I saw The Escape alone, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, I was grateful for the cover of dark glasses even before I emerged into the street.
By contrast, in Arterton’s next film ‘Vita and Virginia’ scheduled for a spring 2019 release, she plays Vita Sackville-West against Elozabeth Debicki’s Virginia Woolf.