Sometimes it’s not the great speech, not the grand gesture. A look tells the story; underacting makes the impact. Three such moments from three actors. Emotional scenes that, in lesser hands, could become melodrama.
“Take your time, Roy”
Monday, Roy is aware that he’s taking up Tyrone and Chesney’s time, going through the woods along the waterfront, from spot to identical spot. He’s looking for the right place to scatter Hayley’s ashes. He finds it, and starts the ritual he has practiced so many times in his head. He can’t continue. His anxiety is in his words, face and the frustrated flap of his hand. Take your time, says Tyrone. And Roy pauses and looks at him. He calms, and proceeds with his words of goodbye.
The pause, more than his words, conveys the importance of this event, the reconciliation he is making with his past life ending and a new one beginning.
Thursday, Owen sees his ex-wife Linda with Katy. He confronts them, how dare Linda sneak back to meet with Katy. How dare Katy have anything to do with this woman who abandoned her. They challenge him, why should they not talk to each other, hear out the other’s side. In one sucked in breath, Owen shows twenty years of pain. For just a heartbeat, he is silent.
In that instant, we see the hurt he still feels from Linda leaving him and their children, the fear that his daughters will be hurt again, and the fear too that they will abandon him. Then he goes back to yelling and threatening, being Owen again.
“Could you be…”
Friday, Craig consults Dr. Google to help Faye find possible reasons for her gain in weight. After they dismiss Cushing’s Disease, he continues scrolling then looks at the screen with shock. He asks, “could you be…?”
The pause and the look in his eyes is all we need to know what he is asking. Could she be pregnant. He is embarrassed and horrified but he waits for her answer. Not possible, she says, also looking embarrassed and horrified. But he perseveres with an ungainly but lovely sensitivity, making her aware she has to be honest with him and with herself.
All three situations are ones in which overacting would be easy. In all three, it’s the tiny pause the actors give that sets up the dramatic strength of the words that follow.