Sunday, November 1, 2020

Movie with Abe: That Good Night

That Good Night
Directed by Eric Styles
Released November 3, 2020 (Digital and VOD)

A person’s will to live is largely influenced by their evaluation of what is that they have. That is affected by their notion of what they’ve had before and may no longer possess, which can include bodily functions or mental ability. Being successful and comfortable doesn’t necessarily mean much if someone can’t enjoy it, or if they don’t have the right people with whom to spend their time. A knowledge of a terminal prognosis can help those who want to go out on their own terms decide that they should make certain decisions, which can be affected greatly by an unexpected change in circumstances.

Ralph (John Hurt) lives a life of luxury with his wife Anna (Sofia Helin), trying hard to capture the glory he once had in his younger days as a renowned screenwriter. When he receives news of a debilitating illness, Ralph sets out to control his fate, concerned that his wife should not need to take care of him. As he contacts an unnamed man (Charles Dance) who specializes in discretely helping those who want to end their own lives, Ralph tries to mend his fractured relationship with his son Michael (Max Brown), who arrives to his villa with his new girlfriend, Cassie (Erin Richards), whose charms do not impress the discerning Ralph.

This film follows a familiar structure in which an older person who is dying tries to repair that which they have broken over the course of their lives. Ralph’s efforts aren’t terribly praiseworthy since he makes no attempt to be nice to Cassie, seeing her as an interference in his communication with his son, and he doesn’t share his medical status with them or with Anna since he does not want them to look at him in a different way. Ralph is best described as crotchety and even cruel, and his slow softening is a predictable process with some compelling moments along the way.

This film originally played at film festivals in 2017 and serves as a powerful final lead performance from Hurt, who died at the age of 77 in January of that year. His manner, however impolite, feels realistic and lived-in, and Ralph does possess endearing qualities that begin to shine through as he lets his guard down and realizes the appeal of a positive rapport with someone other than his wife. In the supporting cast, Richards stands out for the personality she displays in Cassie, perfectly capable of standing up for herself and not content to be used as a punching bag. This film’s ultimate journey may be more poignant than the specific contents of its narrative, but the message it delivers about the meaning of life and relationships is indeed strong and affirming.


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