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Originally published April 15, 2010 at 3:03 PM | Page modified April 15, 2010 at 8:45 PM

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Movie review

'The Eclipse': haunting story of love and loss

A three-star review of "The Eclipse," a haunted and haunting drama starring Ciarán Hinds and Iben Hjejle.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'The Eclipse,' with Ciarán Hinds, Iben Hjejle, Aidan Quinn, Jim Norton, Hannah Lynch. Directed by Conor McPherson, from a screenplay by McPherson and Billy Roche, based on a story in Roche's book "Tales from Rainwater Pond." 88 minutes. Rated R for language and some disturbing images. Harvard Exit.

The Irish actor Ciarán Hinds has a face made for mourning; handsome (he's like an older, slightly- letting-himself-go Clive Owen) but long and a little puffy, with eyes that look like they've seen some troubled nights. In playwright Conor McPherson's haunting drama "The Eclipse" he plays a man bereaved but not yet fully grieving: Michael Farr, a widower with two children, a teaching job, and a habit of volunteering at the local literary festival in his small Irish town. We see him tidying the kitchen by himself late at night, carefully placing dishes on shelves in a way that makes you think that someone else once put them there.

The film is an unusual and sometimes oddly paced mixture of ghost story (with a handful of well-placed jolts — including one right out of "Carrie" — that just might make you scream) and character drama, as Michael copes with frightening dreams and wonders if something supernatural is wandering through his house. At the festival, he meets Lena (Iben Hjejle, of "High Fidelity"), the author of a book about ghosts, and is drawn to her, but their tentative attraction is interrupted by Nicholas (Aidan Quinn), a famous novelist who's interested in following up on a brief previous relationship with Lena.

Quinn's performance, as a man whose self-importance oozes from every hair on his elaborately disheveled head, is so richly comic it almost sets "The Eclipse" off-balance; just watching Nicholas tasting (and grandly rejecting) wine in a restaurant, as if he were royalty in rumpled tweed, is enough to make you wish he had his own movie. ("Stalkers! Failed writers, all of them!," he sputters, not quite grasping that nobody's stalking him.)

But Hinds and Hjejle, in their less-showy roles, create an almost- relationship that's often quite moving. In his quiet house hung with portraits of those who have become ghosts, Michael finally learns to mourn, and we realize that storytelling is how a writer grieves.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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