To hear Natalia Tena and Oona Chaplin tell it, it was love at first sight for the two British actors when they met on the set of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” As the wildling protector of Bran Stark, Tena’s Osha has been a fan favorite since Season 1 of the hit series. Though Chaplin’s tenure on the show was tragically cut short after the Red Wedding, her character Talisa ensnared audiences and Rob Stark alike — but the true romance was between Tena and Chaplin.
“Oona’s my wife in real life,” Tena told IndieWire from a hotel room in Barcelona, where she was flanked by her dog, Mimosa. “We met on ‘Game of Thrones.’ She’s been one of my best friends since the moment I met her. I was like, ‘This woman is my team.'” Chaplin was equally as effusive about Tena, calling her: “one of my best, best friends.”
Naturally, when director Carlos Marques-Marcet approached Tena about developing another film together, (the two hit it off during 2014’s “10.000 Km”), Tena suggested Chaplin. “I was, at the start, very apprehensive,” Tena said. “I’ve got no problem with playing a queer lady…[but], with my best friend, I was a bit scared of the sex scenes.”
Set on one of the famous houseboats that line London’s Regent’s Canal, “Anchor and Hope” follows a young couple’s conflict between their bohemian lifestyle and their desire to grow their family. When we meet Kat (Tena) and Eva (Chaplin), they are burying their beloved cat in an over-the-top ceremony guided by the chantings of Eva’s kooky mother, Germaine. (Played by Chaplin’s real-life mother, the legendary Geraldine Chaplin.)
“My mother is completely insane and she came up with the wildest things,” Chaplin said. “I’ve never heard my mother have such a filthy mouth. In that funeral scene, the obscenities coming out of that woman had us all rolling around with laughter, it was great. I’d never seen that kind of awful, hilarious humor coming out of my mother.”
The cat’s death prompts Eva to ponder having a child as a way to move forward, but Kat is lukewarm on the idea. When Kat’s best mate Roger (David Verdaguer) comes to stay, his enthusiasm pushes Kat to reconsider. After a night of heavy drinking on the boat, the three friends wake up having agreed to have a baby together.
While the premise may sound overly familiar to LGBTQ audiences, the soulful characters and chemistry between the actors fill “Anchor and Hope” with a natural and infectious unpredictability. They feel like real people you’d like to get to know, and their anxieties about conforming to societal expectations are relatable to anyone who questions the status quo.
When it came to representing Kat and Eva’s relationship authentically, Marques-Marcet’s co-writer Jules Nurrish, who is a queer woman, was instrumental. According to Tena, Nurrish suggested adding a sex scene at the beginning of the film, to establish their intimacy separate from the later sex scene, which is all about the artificial insemination.
“[Nurrish] wanted very much another scene that wasn’t about babies and sperm, and to have that connection that they have just as a couple being naughty and cute after the cat died,” said Tena. “I think it’s very good to have something that has nothing to do with making babies just to set the tone for their love.”
The result is a rare example of a lesbian sex scene directed by a man that is neither overly gratuitous nor so safe as to be disappointing. Sneaking away for a private moment at Germaine’s house, the women, fully clothed, have a quickie on a bench outside. It’s both illicit and intimate; and with the more androgynous Kat on the receiving end, it also inverts tired stereotypes about who does what in lesbian sex.
“The best compliment I received in the film was that it was the most realistic sex scene that they’ve ever seen two women do on screen,” said Chaplin. “So much of the queer scene and generally love stories, are very idealized and from a lens that doesn’t actually explore the grit and the truth of the connection between people.”
“It’s little things that make it like a real partnership that you do whether you’re straight or queer, it doesn’t matter,” said Tena. “Those little things that aren’t gratuitous sex. No reason for the male gaze, basically.”
“Anchor and Hope” is now available on Digital, VOD, and DVD from Wolfe Video.