After the egregiously strident comedy of their last collaboration Life Happens, writer/director Kat Coiro and star Kate Bosworth re-team for an equally intolerable drama with And While We Were Here. With its every gesture both obvious but simplistic, Coiro’s tale concerns Bosworth and Iddo Goldberg’s married couple who travel to Italy so he can perform in an orchestral concert and she can finally begin work on a long-in-the-making book about her grandmother’s experiences in rural France during WWI and WWII. From the film’s opening frames, the director’s compositions visualize Bosworth and Goldberg’s silent detachment from each other with mannered bluntness. That sort of gracelessness extends to the interview recordings of her grandmother that Bosworth listens to via headphones, as each comment from the woman is so conveniently relevant to Bosworth’s current emotional situation that this recurring device soon comes across as parody.
Granny’s words of wisdom prove quietly comforting and informative for Bosworth, especially after she meets Jamie Blackley’s 19-year-old American while she walks around the quaint seaside Italian town in which she and Goldberg are staying. With cutely tousled hair and a stringy frame decorated with chest tattoos, the talkative Blackley is the polar opposite of the stoic, reserved Goldberg, and it’s not long before Bosworth is frolicking in the water and dining and dashing at romantic restaurants with her new boy toy. Their initial day together plays out in a wandering-the-old-European-village vein akin to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, which makes And While We Were Here feel derivative. Far more problematic, though, is the dismal quality of their chitchat, which is so much hot air prefacing their preordained bedroom get-together.
The extramarital sex eventually comes, as do revelations about the reasons for Bosworth and Goldberg’s estrangement, which have to do with a past miscarriage and the carnal stagnation that followed. Such one-to-one explanations are emblematic of And While We Were Here, which eschews complications at every turn. Coiro’s imagery dully expresses its characters states of mind, while her dialogue is either monotonous or—in the case of the grandmother’s recordings—laughably crude, underlining everything in stark terms that decimate any nuance. A committed Bosworth gives herself over to the role. Yet, there’s ultimately no real role for her to play—like her male co-stars, she’s simply stuck embodying a series of clichéd poses (tightly pulled back hair to show she’s unhappy! Flowing locks to show she’s finally free) that are so tedious, they manage to render the film’s lovely travelogue sights lackluster.