By Pete Barell
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Rebecca (Academy Award Winner Juliette Binoche) is a photojournalist who reports on the dangerous daily lives of people in war zones. Her latest assignment documents female suicide bombers in Afghanistan, who let her observe and study their preparations. Putting herself in harms way, Rebecca barely survives a street-side explosion, returns home to her family in Ireland, and is riddled with guilt since she may have been able to stop those events from happening. But even the confrontations from her husband Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and the distance between her and her daughters does not keep Rebecca from the temptation to return to the field to expose injustice.
“1,000 Times Good Night” was written and directed by Erik Poppe, a Norwegian filmmaker who spent a large portion of his early career as a photographer covering international conflicts all over the world. Poppe discovered the hardships of such a job; not only in the field, but the toll it takes back home in family life. That experience penetrates this film in a very honest way. Characters make dumb mistakes and irrational decisions that may seem jarring at first to the audience, but ultimately feel real, as they convey human imperfection.
The dialogue in the film could use some shaping, but the sudden emotional outbursts from certain characters are rationalized through the lens of family. Ever not hear from a loved one for a few hours, get worried, and snap at them for making you feel that way? This notion of anger, from worry and love, is an important part of the story.
Coster-Waldau (you know, Jaime Lannister from “Game of Thrones”) is a standout in the film, utilizing his real, deep Danish voice as Marcus, rather than the accented voices he is known for in more of his mainstream work. Here, he is a master of passive-aggressive whispers that reveal a deep exasperated love for his wife. Binoche counters with equal acting finesse, depicting Rebecca as both a flawed and caring
mother.Imagery of sheets, curtains, and other transparent fabrics emphasize the blurred ethics in the story. Rebecca’s daughter Steph (Lauryn Canny) proposes accompanying her mother on a new assignment to Kenya, showing an interest in the photographic work,
and as a means to re-connect. Of course, tragedy strikes on their trip and their relationship, and the family unit is plunged back into tense cold water. One scene, in which Rebecca speaks to her daughter from behind a mosquito net, further emphasizes the gaps forming between the characters, and the strains developing within their relationship.
Other than a few brief surrealistic dream-sequences, Poppe focuses his characterization and symbolism on real action and, more importantly, the setting. There is a fantastic sense of danger as Rebecca travels in the Middle East and elsewhere, that plays with the Western mind and all of the fears that rarely are seen firsthand, and often seen through the media (think, ISIS).
The film falls into danger of sticking itself in the category of stretched-out family drama, but finds redemptions by injecting an appropriate amount of action and tension. With few shortfalls, other than perhaps a hint of moralizing themes, this is a refreshing and relevant film with a well-built international cast.
“1,000 Times Goodnight” opens Oct. 24 in limited theatrical release and video-on-demand.