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The Eclipse (2009)
The Eclipse is a 2009 Irish supernatural drama film directed by Conor McPherson and stars Ciarán Hinds, Iben Hjejle and Aidan Quinn. In an Irish town by the sea, a widower believes he is seeing apparitions. As a volunteer at the town's annual literary festival, he meets a writer of supernatural novels and begins to develop a relationship with her. He finds competition from an American writer who is trying to win over the novelist. Michael Farr (Ciarán Hinds) is a depressed widower who teaches shop in the small seaside town of Cobh, in County Cork, Ireland, where he lives with his two children. While he continues to adjust to life without his beloved wife, who died two years earlier, he begins to experience strange, possibly supernatural occurrences connected to his elderly father-in-law, who is close to death in a local nursing home. When Michael volunteers at the town's annual literary festival, he's assigned to look after Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle). Lena is known for her ghost stories, and Michael, impressed with the realistic nature of her writing, shares his recent experiences with her.
Set in the small seaside Irish town of Cobh, the film centers on the lonely Michael Farr (a stolid Ciarán Hinds), a local schoolteacher who recently lost his wife to cancer and is now raising two kids on his own. There is a literary festival going on in Cobh, the sort of event where well-meaning bookish types and community boosters like Farr volunteer to help wrangle visiting writers and keep the readings and dinners humming along. Indeed, Farr generally tries to keep himself busy; that's is because at night, and sometimes even during the day, in quiet corners of his too-empty house, his dead wife likes to make her presence known. Adding to the generally sepulchral atmosphere is Farr's nursing home-bound father-in-law (McPherson stage regular Jim Norton), who seems able to haunt him though he is still quite alive.
These visitations and nightmares take a more urgent tone when Farr starts to squire around a visiting London writer, Lena Morelle (Iben Hjejle). Not only does she exhibit an everyday brand of grace, stiffened by a keen intellect, but she just so happens to have written a book of ghost stories that Farr is working his way through. Research.
Complications arise when another visiting writer comes on the scene. Nicholas Holden (Aidan Quinn, having almost too much fun) is a boorish prat from America who gets enough acclaim and sells enough books that there seems to be little reason why he would subject himself to this kind of small-scale event. Then it becomes clear that the married and frequently drunk Holden has a past with Morelle, and is eager to reignite it. Farr stands between them, saddled with his ghosts and regretful desires.
The Eclipse delivers a quietly haunting experience, aided and abetted by some nicely toned writing, Ivan McCullough's rainy cinematography, and well-modulated performances. The shocks and creeps come only occasionally and at odd intervals, which will leave horror fans deeply unfulfilled, but lovers of a quieter brand of haunting tale should find themselves unsettled in a most satisfying way. If the film ever disappoints, it is only because this is the kind of story that McPherson has done maybe all too well in the past. It's a light criticism, to be sure.