Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2016 5:37 pm 
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A young African American man, reeling from the tragic loss of his wife, travels to rural Maine to seek answers from his estranged mother-in-law, who is herself confronting guilt and grief over her daughter's death.

This decidedly lackluster effort is mainly a chance for the two principles, David Oyelowo and Dianne Wiest, to act up a storm. Oyelowo, whose enormous talents have been seen in many films over the past five years, plays Sherwin, the bereaved and insomniac husband who drives up from New York after his wife's death in a car accident. Dianne Wiest plays Lucinda, the cranky mother of his wife, dying of cancer, whom he visits.

The storm they act up is not such a storm, really, because the writer-director Curran provides them with such thin material. One could use the familiar metaphor "like watching paint dry" for the proceedings if the paint were understood to be periodically cracking and blistering. Because there are events, however unsatisfying and inconclusive. The widower, a black man, goes jogging in the Main woods nearby. Apparently being shot at, or so he assesses the gunshots later, he rushes into some rough brambles, falls, and emerges in pain and limping. Later he breaks into stifled tears at the dinner table. Lucinda, who according to nurse Ann (bad name for Rosie Perez) "is in a lot of painn" but "tough," collapses at one point and has to be rescued from the floor. Getting out of a car, she gives evidence of being in physical agony. Finally she cries out that she should have been the one to go, a remark as much practical as selfless, given her present state.

Five Nights in Maine, 82 mins., debuted at Toronto (Discovery section) Sept. 2015 (reviewed there by Andrew Barker for Variety - "tasteful yet inscrutable," he called it); ten other festivals currently listed through Apr. 2016, including San Francisco (SFIFF), where it was screened by this writer. This is a preview. A full review will appear after the film's putative theatrical release.

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