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When your career deals with being an observer, it makes the moments in which you are expected to be a participant difficult.
Review (with Spoilers)
Thanks to watching The Graham Norton Show, in which star Juliette Binoche was amongst the guest, I found out about this movie. It should be noted, though, another big draw is Maria Doyle Kennedy from Orphan Black; as well as Nikolaj Coster-Waldau from Game of Thrones. But, while two recognizable faces do sweeten the deal, the question remains: Can a movie about a war photographer get you, and keep you, interested?
Characters & Story
Rebecca (Juliette Binoche) is amongst the top 5 photographers in the world. Her photographs of varying crises are legendary. She is like a fly on the wall, becoming closely intimate with her subjects and captures every moment. Be it a young girl preparing to be a suicide bomber or a town in Kenya about to be torn by battle, she will find a nook for herself and seek to expose the situation to the world.
However, as good as she is in observing and capturing moments, it seems her ability in participating in her own life with her family is difficult. For one, her husband Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is forced to be with their two daughters Steph (Lauryn Canny) and Lisa (Adrianna Cramer Curtis) on constant edge knowing any minute that an integral part of their family can be gone. Making Rebecca’s career a strain on her marriage, as well as her relationship with her children. What seemingly is her grounding force.
But, with getting caught near a suicide vest blast radius, Rebecca is forced home. With this, she seems ready to end her career for between reading Steph’s journal and seeing what her absence has done, watching her marriage fall apart, and realizing she is likely to miss Lisa’s childhood, it seems she may be ready to sacrifice her career for her family. Then comes one assignment possibly last assignment, of which Steph joins, which changes everything. With this small taste of action once more, a difficult decision is put before Rebecca in which she almost is forced to choose between her family and her work.
When it comes to wars and crises, usually we are given the perspective of someone in the military. A brave soldier, one out of their league usually, who rises through the ranks, and so on. In this film, however, we follow a photographer and deal with the uncomfortableness of her watching, often in silence, as people experience great personal horrors. Of which, creates this weird unease as we watch Binoche portray Rebecca. You can see that all these horrors have left a few scars on her mind, as well as her body, but going home is that rest.
But, with Rebecca’s absence that reset button is gunky with disappointment, feelings of abandonment, and other feelings which aren’t put into words, but are expressed in the glances of everyone who seemingly has developed mixed feelings upon Rebecca’s return. I should note, though, while Binoche certainly is the driver of this film, Canny does try to keep up. Mind you, she doesn’t stand out enough to fully carve out her own little pedestal of which to be praised, but considering the family element is perhaps something which can be considered the weak point of the film, throughout, she does slide by without causing too much damage.
Elaborating further on that critique of the family element, to me, the family element is the weakest part of the film because it not only changes the tone of the film but feels rather weakly written in. You almost wish at times the family bits were cut out so the focus could be solely Rebecca photographing these complicated moments which she sometimes desires to interfere in. As well as watch her fight with her editors and express why she is so passionate about her work. And, to me, that would have been a far more excellent film than what we are given.
Alas, what we see, with the addition of her family, is an attempt to show the complicated side of being a woman with a career and family. But, be it my need to see a woman succeed in having it all, or just weak writing on her failing to have it all, I found myself uninterested in the family drama. If just because it seems like the same old issues with a slightly different spin. Rebecca’s husband Marcus acts like he doesn’t know the woman he married; the kids are your generic type of which one is naïve about everything, while the other is old enough to understand what is going on, but not mature enough, well until the end of the movie, to accept their mom was a person before they came around. And the combination of this just makes the family drama seem more like an attempt to shame Rebecca than to really tell the story of women struggling to balance having a fruitful career while trying to have a family.
Overall: TV Viewing
While enjoyable, and arguably could work as a series, A Thousand Times Good Night can be a bit frustrating as it takes a great idea and drowns it in a simple plot. One which there could have been a better attempt at showing the difficulties of a woman pursuing a dangerous career with a family waiting at home, but instead decided to just drown us in her family making her feel guilty to the point of going insane. Hence why I say this is only worth TV Viewing. It is good but drowns itself in overdone drama.