2015 / Director. Erik Poppe.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
A THOUSAND TIMES GOOD NIGHT is an affecting character study that grabs you by the collar and pulls you in. It tells the story of a female photojournalist whose passion and dedication to documenting war zones has turned into an obsession. With a family at home in Ireland, who suffer from her absence and fear for her safety, she finds herself at a crossroad. When she pushes her luck capturing the methodology of female suicide-bombers in Afghanistan she is badly injured in an unplanned explosion and sent home to recover. There she is faced with a husband who is done with her reckless behaviour and two daughters who are emotionally withdrawn. It was directed by Erik Poppe who was, himself, a renowned photojournalist. He brings personal experience to the film and injects a deeply seeded realism that, perhaps, few other filmmakers could. According to press releases many of the Middle Eastern and African stories depicted are autobiographical and this knowledge really does give the narrative the humanity and perspective that pushes it to an unexpected level of distinction. Juliette Binoche is amongst the greatest actors in the world as far as I am concerned and I am not sure she's ever been better than she is in this film. Her performance is mesmerising. Her character is put through a gamut of emotional challenges and she possesses an ability to adapt to any situation and evoke emotions from the deepest regions of her being. One particular scene has the camera turned on her and she becomes completely lost in the moment. Lost in a sense that she is exposed and unable to comprehend the feeling. Her emotional investment in the character is worthy of whatever accolades come her way. Her support cast is excellent also with Danish actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau playing her counter-balancing and ever suffering husband. He delivers a weighty performance that is understated yet pivotal. Perhaps the biggest revelation is 15 year old Lauryn Canny who plays the eldest daughter. She is sensational as she takes her character (as well as the viewer) on an emotional roller coaster of fear, uncertainty, confusion and heartbreak. She is delightful on screen and I really hope to see more of her over the next few years. An unusual and surprising addition to the cast is U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. I have no idea why he would be in a film such as this, and it appears that he had no financial interests in it, but thankfully he gives an effortless and natural performance as a close family friend. The cinematography and production design is beautiful with contrasting motifs between the western world and the third world. The war zone portions of the film are shot well and the intensity of the conflicts feels close. Through the character's camera we see the atrocities in the faces of her subjects. Every frame of these scenes feels like perpetual snapshots and the fascinating consequence of a filmmaker capturing a photographer is that the we are presented with varying degrees of dissociation. At times the story is deliberately emotive yet at other times it forces a divide between what we're seeing and how we're receiving the information. There is a moment when Binoche's character comments that the world is more obsessed with seeing Paris Hilton step out of a car without underwear than they are concerned about genocides and war. It is by no means a preachy film, nor is it pushing an agenda... but it certainly serves as a stark reminder that there are voices screaming to be heard and that the wider world needs to respond. It's a powerful film. Most excellent.