Too often, viewers just have to take a movie love story's word for it that its characters actually belong together. Not so in Carlos Marques-Marcet's loose, observant Anchor and Hope, a three- (or four-) way relationship drama with a cast, in unrushed scenes, that animates every nuance with offhand significance, making clear in each moment what most matters to each of them. The characters' histories, hopes and doubts pulse between them, exposed by the subtle craft of the performers, as the camera unobtrusively tracks them. Lovers Eva (Oona Chaplin) and Kat (Natalia Tena) live in Kat's cramped houseboat on a London canal. After the death of her cat Chorizo, Eva decides she'd like to have a baby -- right when Eva's old pal Roger (David Verdaguer) is crashing with them. Somewhat smashed, Eva proposes that Roger donate sperm, and the two women could then raise the child, a plan everyone agrees to. Then comes the sobering dawn -- and bohemian Kat's reluctance, as she wonders how parenthood can coincide with their life scrapping along the city's waterways.
From there, Anchor and Hope observes this trio in various configurations, growing funnier and more sad as it goes. Highlights abound: Geraldine Chaplin, Oona Chaplin's real-life mother, beautifully plays a scene as Eva's mother, a progressive woman, discovering with some embarrassment that her mind isn't as open as she has assumed. Verdaguer shares freewheeling comic duets with Tena's Kat, their laughter and anger revealing these friends' raucous shared history. The script, by Marques-Marcet and Jules Nurrish, plumbs the characters' darkest thoughts but also surprises with its climactic conventionality, building one superbly delivered Grand Declaration of Love that puts most such movie scenes to shame.