Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Movie with Abe: The Sunlight Night

The Sunlight Night
Directed by David Wnendt
Released July 17, 2020

There can come a point in a person’s life when they feel that they’re not really headed anywhere, and they need to do something drastic in order to change that. An unexpected breakup can contribute to this sentiment, as can either extremely positive or negative events in the lives of those closest to them. A change of scenery is the easiest way to initiate self-reflection and a reboot of sorts, though new places also come with new factors that can be just as influential to a person’s experience. Whatever the inspiration and the destination, a fresh start almost always brings along with it some transformative discovery.

Frances (Jenny Slate) just needs to get away after her boyfriend breaks up with her and she learns that her sister (Elise Kibler) is engaged and that her parents (David Paymer and Jessica Hecht) are separating. She immediately accepts an open position that will spirit her far from everything stressing her out, which will have her painting a barn completely yellow with a disgruntled artist, Nils (Fridtjov Såheim), at the top of the world in rural Norway. Her fully-sunlit summer also finds her beginning an unexpected friendship with a young baker named Yasha (Alex Sharp), who has traveled from New York to where he is to give his late father a Viking funeral.

This is a film that follows someone trying to find herself after her life spirals out of their control. Frances arrives and is far too talkative for Nils’ liking, and the nonstop sunshine may be beautiful but ultimately shines brightest on her loneliness. Using Frances’ interest in art to frame its structure, this film introduces new characters and noteworthy events through artwork, commenting on their strengths and flaws in a visual way as they express themselves through minimal speech and muted actions.

Slate, who has impressed at Sundance before in “Obvious Child” and “Landline,” turns in another fine performance that speaks well to her abilities and personality. She’s supported well by a strong cast that also includes Sharp, who won a Tony for originating the starring role in the Broadway show “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” Zach Galifianakis, and Gillian Anderson. This film is quirky and often downright bizarre, leaning into the unexpected happenings and cultural norms of its transplanted main character’s new experience. This offbeat film manages to entertain all the way through, a worthwhile story set against an incredible backdrop.


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