Vita & Virginia (2018)

Vita & Virginia
Director: Chanya Button
Writer: Eileen Atkins, Chanya Button
Based on: Vita Sackville-West‘s and Virginia Woolf‘s letters
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isabella Rossellini, Rupert Penry-Jones, Peter Ferdinando, Emerald Fennell, Gethin Anthony, Rory Fleck Byrne, Karla Crome
Part of: Toronto International Film Festival
Seen on: 11.9.2018

Vita (Gemma Arterton) and Virginia (Elizabeth Debicki) move in similar social circles, but have yet to meet personally. Vita has admired Virginia from afar and she is determined to become friends with her. Virginia is taken aback by Vita’s adamant attempts at first, but she has to admit that she is also drawn to Vita. It doesn’t take long and they become friends, then lovers, inspiring each other in their writing. Despite their progressive surroundings, not everybody can deal equally well with their relationship though.

With Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf being who they were and having led the lives they led, it is hard to imagine a film about them that wouldn’t be at least interesting. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the film would have been well-made. In this case, luckily, the film is not only interesting, it is very well-made indeed.

Film poster showing Gemma Arterton and Elizabeth Debicki leaning against each other.

Vita & Virginia is pretty much exactly my thing when it comes to film (well, one of my things): a film about awesome queer women with interesting things to say leading unconventional lives of their own choosing. But also apart from its content, it’s really fantastic.

As is fitting for a film about two writers, Vita & Virginia is a wordy film with a lot of talking. This must have been both a challenge and gratifying for Debicki and Arterton who are perfectly cast. I certainly got the sense that they both really relished their roles and for me in the audience it was a joy to watch them in turn.

Elizabeth Debicki and Gemma Arterton in the film.

Generally the film was a joy to watch, visually pleasing in every sense with great costumes, sets and cinematography (and of course, neither Arterton nor Debicki are exactly hard on the eyes either). Button also made some interesting choices like using a supermodern soundtrack for that historical film – and those choices do pay off. In particular the soundtrack was awesome.

The film might have been a little too long here and there, but really, I can’t begrudge those lengths, as I, too, wanted to spend more time with both of these awesome women. Even at the end of the film, I really wanted to stay with them longer.

In short, it was an all around successful film and I’m glad to have caught it. There should be more films like it.

Gemma Arterton and Elizabeth Debicki in the film.

Summarizing: Excellent.

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