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“You’re a dick!” chuckles Kat (Natalia Tena), as she playfully wrestles with her Spanish friend, Roger (David Verdaguer). Indeed, his role in Anchor and Hope is very much that. He is the semen for the two lesbians who are the centre of the story. Kat’s girlfriend, Eva (Oona Chaplin), desperately wants a child and Roger has the “little fishes” to make one. This is not an unlikable, threesome-romance that could have been made twenty years ago. Instead, Anchor and Hope sensitively explores the challenge of choosing to be a parent. The issues raised would make as much sense to a heterosexual couple as they do to Kat and Eva. The biological clock that ticks, in your mid-thirties, ticks that much louder. Modernity presents all sorts of new families but the themes in Anchor and Hope are timeless, and force us to acknowledge the monumental change that affects both parents.

Set in London, Kat lives on a canal boat. She fixes and renovates boats in her nine-to-five, while Eva is a dance teacher. Anchor and Hope begins as they put to rest a deceased cat, Chorizo. Eva’s eccentric mother (played by Oona Chaplin’s own mother, Geraldine), manages to convince Kat to “aaahhmmmm” in a spiritual ceremony while, out of sight of Mum, Eva passionately rewards Kat afterwards. They are deeply in love and enjoy the unconventional, constantly moving lifestyle of canal co-habiting. But the need for a child returns to the forefront of Eva’s mind, to the frustration of Kat. At the same time, Roger is visiting from Barcelona. The three are good friends and drink the night away before, post spewing-her-tequila, Eva propositions him to be a donor to Kat and her. He accepts and Kat comes round and supports the endeavour. Masturbating in the cramp toilet and handing the sperm over is his part – and the rest is between Eva and Kat. However, between Roger’s growing keenness to be involved and Kat’s conscious effort to step back, Eva becomes more and more isolated. Clearly, this is not plain sailing for anyone.Surprisingly, many young men and women live on canal boats in London. Skyrocketing house-prices, low-paid jobs and innovative alternatives have forced many young millennials to join the riverside folk. What is truly refreshing in Anchor and Hope, is how gloriously it celebrates this life. It refuses to patronise or dwell on these political realities and, instead, focuses on the relationship at the centre – using the canal boats as an intriguing location for the couple. Clearly, neither are in affluent professions but their happiness and appreciation of art and beauty is infectious.

Conversations and relationships feel real, grounded and honest. Between pram shopping and the scenic views that surround the rivers they move between, Anchor and Hope comfortably reveals a unique set of circumstances that will engage every viewer – whatever your background and experience. Heartfelt, calmly paced and touching, Anchor and Hope is a loving story that tugs at the realities of choosing to be a parent in 2018.

★★★★

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