Based on Athol Fugard’s play and featuring only three characters (one of whom barely says a word), this examination of a homeless couple on the fringes of Cape Town is quite powerful stuff. Yet while it looks amazing, it’s just a bit too stagy to really work on the screen. Boesman and Lena (Glover and Bassett) are wandering in the wasteland outside Cape Town when they find a place to camp for the night. But Lena suddenly has a crisis of identity, wondering how they have gotten themselves into such a desperate place. Her rants provide the film with its substance, as she and Boesman struggle with their difficult, strained and, yes, oppressed relationship … and we get glimpses of their earlier, happier life.
There are a lot of cultural layers here that audiences unfamiliar with the ethnic/political situation in South Africa will have a hard time picking up on. But even without a full understanding, this film helps us get a much more vivid feeling of the situation there than anything we see on the nightly news. The late Berry directed the film skilfully, with a real visual sense that captures both the beauty and desolation in the landscape, as well as the intricacies of the human faces. Bassett and Glover are excellent, but their performances are very theatrical, way larger than life! We long for just a tiny bit of quietness and subtlety, but it never comes. And this makes the whole thing feel more than a little forced … and preachy. Even though the words they speak and the story they tell is compelling, moving and very thought provoking.