Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Sunlit Night: Movie Review

A mixed bag of sullenness.

On the surface, The Sunlit Night offers comedian Jenny Slate the chance to stretch her dramatic chops, but in reality it’s a mashup of three different film ideas with no clear theme or substance. In the first 10 minutes we’re treated to a quirky comedy. Frances (Slate) is a struggling New York artist living in a tiny apartment with her deranged parents and sister. The sister might be normal, but she gets left behind.   2019

Directed by: David Wnendt

Screenplay by: Rebecca Knight Dinerstein

Starring: Jenny Slate

Frances jumps at the chance to take a painting job in Norway, and with her the film turns to a sullen drama, with some artistic expressions sprinkled in for no clear purpose. Half-way through, Zach Galifianakis pops in and he’s acting in a quirky comedy but the other characters remain in the sullen drama. Meanwhile, Slate is left on her own in a vast emptiness, acting in a sea of meaninglessness.

At the beginning, Frances’ sister announces she’s engaged, to which her father responds that he and their mother are getting divorced and that he hates her worthless fiancĂ©. That type of unexpected brashness is funny, especially if it’s followed up with a more meaningful comedy. Instead, Frances gets on a plane for a remote area of Norway, near the Arctic circle where the sun never sets.

She has an unpleasant painting job to do for an unpleasant man, but this is a time for self-reflection. Ruminating on where she went wrong in life and getting back to the art, because if she’s not an artist what is she? Luckily the Norwegian landscapes are breath-taking, because otherwise there is nothing to focus on here.

As Frances is starting to come around to her new way-of-life, she meets a man. Yasha (Alex Sharp) is depressed. They meet while he’s contemplating suicide, but she doesn’t notice that. She just notices: Human! American male! I wish I could give him more attributes, but I can’t. He is as dull a love interest as you could possibly create. But you know, he’s sad. Lest we forget we’re in the midst of a very sullen drama.

There is a scene involving a Viking ritual funeral, which is interesting, especially if it was surrounded by something more meaningful. At least the majority of the movie takes place in Norway, and the cinematographer did a superb job capturing the beauty of the serenity, and the works of art, and particularly the outside shots of the unique barn they’re painting.

Back in New York at the end, the father makes the same joke about the sister marrying the worthless fiancé. This time it is decidedly not funny.