In 1908, Josephine Peary (Juliette Binoche) sets out with a guide, Bram Trevor (Gabriel Byrne), to the hostile remote landscape of the Arctic North in search of her explorer husband, who is attempting to reach the North Pole. As winter descends, Josephine is determined not to turn back when she finds companionship with Inuit woman Allaka (Rinko Kikuchi). With the elements against them, and their survival dependent on each other, it becomes clear they are waiting for a man they both love. (Inspired by real characters.)
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It must be said at the start that the voters in Spain's 2016 Goya Awards were much more impressed with Isabel Croixet's latest film than I am, as were the selectors for the Berlin Film Festival, where it competed for the Golden Bear Award. At the Goyas it won awards for score, costumes, make up & hair, and production supervision (whatever that means), and was also nominated for the best film, best director, best actress, best cinematography and best production design.
Its absence in the screenplay category is the only part of the awards with which I agree; it is ironic, then, that such a weak screenplay can generate so many accolades. The story may be based on real characters, but there is very little that is authentic about the end result. (In my book, Croixet's earlier film, Learning to Drive (2014), is a much better example of her talents.)
Juliette Binoche adds grace and talent to the enterprise, but she battles against the elements - both literally in the dark arctic winter and symbolically in the production. Enduring three months of freezing hell is not by itself enough to make cinema, not even with the addition of the odd (as in peculoiar) love triangle the story presents. We never see the man, the husband explorer reaching for the Pole, but have to accept he is adorable, because Josephine (Binoche) married him and yearns for his safe return. So does Allaka (Rinko Kikuchi), who seems to have as much interest in him as Josephine - much to Josephine's surprise - and that scene is the film's high point.
It is a challenge for the filmmakers to then hold our interest in the dark, cold winter weeks inside a flimsy cabin. It's a challenge which for me does not succeed. Poor Kikuchi is made to speak in baby language to suggest her broken English, the dramatic tension is wafer thin and the characters do not engage us (or me, at least) sufficiently to be moved.
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ENDLESS NIGHT (M)
Nadie quiere la noche (Nobody wants the night)
CAST: Juliette Binoche, Rinko Kikuchi, Gabriel Byrne, Matt Salinger, Ciro Miro, Velizar Binev
PRODUCER: Jaume Roures
DIRECTOR: Isabel Coixet
SCRIPT: Miguel Barros
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jean-Claude Larrieu
EDITOR: Elena Ruiz
MUSIC: Lucas Vidal
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alain BainŽe
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Umbrella
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 25, 2016