A Thousand Times Good Night
Facts and Figures
Production compaines: Paradox Spillefilm A/S, Newgrange Pictures, Zentropa International Sweden
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
A Thousand Times Good Night Movie Review
Too prickly for mainstream crowds and rather emotionally sentimental for arthouse fans, this drama may have trouble finding an audience. But it's a striking story with a strong personal kick. And it makes a vital point about global priorities without getting pushy about it. There's also another wonderfully brittle performance from Juliette Binoche at the centre.
She plays Rebecca, an intrepid war photojournalist who is covering the last moments of a suicide bomber in Kabul. When she's injured in the blast, her husband Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) rushes to her side. But back home in Ireland he tells her he can no longer cope with her career. He is dreading the ultimate phone call, after which he'll have to break the news to their daughters: moody teen Steph (Lauryn Canny) and high-maintenance pre-teen Lisa (Adrianna Cramer Curtis). So Rebecca decides to stop working and stay home, turning to close friends (Maria Doyle Kennedy and Larry Mullen Jr.) for support. Then Steph asks Rebecca to take her to visit a refugee camp in Kenya for a school project, and Rebecca is too politically aware to ignore the bigger story going on there, even if it puts her life in danger yet again.
Yes, the film's plot is somewhat contrived, propelling the characters into intense situations for dramatic purposes rather than because anything like this might happen (how many Irish schoolgirls travel to Kenya to write a school report?). But the issues the story raises are potent ones that really get under the skin, provoking thought about much deeper issues relating to both family dynamics and global politics. In this context, Rebecca's journey is breathtakingly important, and Binoche subtly brings out her inner conflict, revealing her warring inner yearnings in a way that's jarringly involving.
Like Rebecca herself, the filmmakers clearly hope to challenge their audience. "I want people to choke on their coffee when they open the paper," Rebecca rants, "to think, feel, react." Indeed, the world needs people like her who are willing to risk their lives to make sure the truly important stories are told and that governments get their priorities right. Combined with Binoche's magnetic performance, these much more urgent ideas provide enough of a kick more than overcome the story's melodramatic plotting and make it both entertaining and important.