Dylan and Reyes are sitting down to dinner at home to celebrate their five-year anniversary. Dylan has cooked the meal, the lighting is set low and everything looks ready for a romantic evening.
But as their dinner proceeds, a hidden layer of long-term grievances and complaints starts to emerge, though it doesn’t quite surface… yet.
Director and co-writer Charlie Reader — along with co-writer Peter Fellows — trains a darkly ironic eye in this sharp, acerbic and emotionally unvarnished snapshot of a couple in a comfortable, established relationship, one that clearly chafes in subtle yet distinctive ways for both parties.
Though it’s a comedy with relationships at its core, it’s not a “romantic comedy” in the traditional sense of the genre. Instead, the storytelling’s barbed, sometimes ribald humor is aimed at exploring the hidden doubts, fears and insecurities of people, and how relationships often muffle honesty at the expense of emotional vitality for both the individuals and the relationship itself.
Much of the film’s dramatic tension and humor is carried through the excellent dialogue, which toggles between expressing the characters’ innermost thoughts and the reality of what their actual conversation is. The gap between the banality of their “real” dialogue and the often incendiary anger and bitterness of their inner one is hilarious, pointed and (scarily) believable. The adroit editing deftly blurs the line between fantasy and reality, but it also builds a dynamic between the couple that is both specific and archetypal, involving a simmering set of unspoken resentments and complaints that both Dylan and Reyes hide underneath casual chit-chat and domestic small talk.
The narrative scale is confined to dinner at home, but the craftsmanship still feels quite rich and expressive, whether it’s in the darkly elegant look of the visuals that veers between intimate and claustrophobic, or the impressionistic sound design, which gestures at Dylan and Reyes’s internal emotional landscapes in quiet yet witty ways. The score also punctuates the humor of the film, adding an ironic, almost operatic flourish to what becomes two dueling arias of psychological discontent.
Actors Christian Cooke and Olga Kurylenko — who also played the role of Bond girl Camille Montes in Quantum of Solace — stay true to the thornier emotions underlying the words while delivering them with a lightness of touch and a musicality in the rhythm. Both performers clearly have fun with saying the things usually left unsaid between couples, but they also hit at the real, more vulnerable fears and doubts that they hold inside them. Sometimes a real, genuine tenderness and hurt seem to bubble up in these moments — but then it’s shrouded in defensiveness, anger and uncertainty, leaving the ultimate fate of the couple uncertain.
Sophisticated, and polished in execution but savage in its wit, “Everything You Didn’t Say” explores the impulses of incivility that arise in long-term monogamous couples, and provokes thought about whether or not such arrangements are compatible or viable. But its most interesting interrogations come from teasing the compromises between honesty and keeping the peace between couples, and exposing just how difficult — yet vital — communication is. But what is the fine line between being too honest but more open? That may be a potentially scary terrain that couples need to explore — though without a real roadmap to get them there.