JDIFF Review – A Thousand Times Goodnight

Rebecca (Juliette Binoche), one of the world’s top war photographers, finds her world thrown into chaos when she finds herself closer, and more emotionally involved with her subjects than ever before. When she returns home to Ireland, Rebecca’s husband Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) offers her an impossible choice; her family or her career.

A Thousand Times Goodnight is ultimately the story of what happens when we try to fight our nature, and turn our back on the things – and people – we love. In Rebecca’s case, she is equally torn between her family and her work. Binoche is great, as usual, as the conflicted photographer who finds herself, for the first time, having to make an impossible choice. The two halves of Rebecca’s life don’t always fit together and she struggles to decide which ones she needs most. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau alternates between angry and gentle, as Rebecca’s husband Marcus. It is easy to see that he was always the rock she depended on, but his patience has definitely worn thin.

Rebecca’s daughter Steph, played by Lauryn Canny, is the true catalyst in Rebecca’s life; although she fears her mother’s return to conflicts, it is she who ultimately convinces her to go, and it is her fear that spurs Rebecca to make an honest decision once and for all. Canny brings fierceness to the role, and completely encapsulates a character infatuated with and terrified by her mother. Maria Doyle Kennedy and Larry Mullen have small roles as family friends.

Writers Erik Poppe, Harald Rosenløw-Eeg and Kirsten Sheridan have created a world that is utterly believable, and as such, make Rebeccca’s struggle a relatable one. The film throws up the issue of what happens when we fight against our passion and the destructive path this can lead us down. The film also explores the idea of whether it is enough to stay at home with our families when we have the power to create change. There are, however, far too many scenes that could be called montage – ugh – that serve to drag the film’s running time out, even as they try to show the depth of the relationships between the characters. The resolution, however, leaves a little to be desired, as it seems the protagonist never really learns from her choices, and perhaps Steph is destined to follow in her mother’s destructive footsteps.

Director Erik Poppe makes A Thousand Times Goodnight a tense yet tender affair although there are moments that are handled rather heavily, and could have done with a lighter touch. Binoche and Canny form the heart and soul of the film, and the chemistry between the two is warm and almost candidly realistic.

In all, A Thousand Times Good Night is a film about the choices we make between love for our families and love for ourselves; Rebecca may feel that she is helping the world but the truth of the matter is that her dangerous job is her passion, and she loves it. Humanity be damned, she just wants one more photo. Binoche, Canny and Coster-Waldau shine in a film that is slightly heavy handed and over sentimentalised at times, but packs a strong emotional punch.

Rating: 3.5/5

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