2013 / Director. Bille August.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
The title NIGHT TRAIN TO LISBON has a ring to it and it's a name that feels ingrained in the psyche... and yet its story was unknown to me. I picked up the blu-ray yesterday and quickly read the brief synopsis. Not giving it much thought, I was convinced enough favour it over other films vying for my attention. To my surprise NIGHT TRAIN TO LISBON told a completely different story to the one I had anticipated. Jeremy Irons plays a Swiss high school teacher who stops a young woman from leaping to her death. She flees, leaving behind her red overcoat and a book. When the teacher finds train tickets to Lisbon in one of the pockets he has an uncharacteristic moment of impulse and drops what he's doing and leaves everything behind. During his travel he reads the book and finds himself overwhelmed by it's true story. This is where the film became something unexpected to me. Call me naive but I was expecting a simple story of self-discovery as this man searches for the woman he saved... but instead, it becomes an intricate and twisted tale of historical significance and heartbreak. The book is autobiographical and takes place during the last revolution of Lisbon and the film alternates between past and present. At times the narrative becomes confusing and matching the past characters with the present ones isn't always easy, but once you have your head around it the story is absorbing. Jeremy Irons is solid in the lead and he's given wonderful support by the rest of the cast. I wouldn't call it a great script by any means but were it told more simply then perhaps it would have been. NIGHT TRAIN TO LISBON might not have been the personal journey I was hoping for but it delivered a mystery that kept me glued and genuinely intrigued. It also has a wonderful end-scene that, while contrived, left me with a huge smile.