Directed by Isabel Coixet
Country: Spain / France / Bulgaria
“Nobody Wants the Night”, a Spain/France/Bulgaria co-production, is a bummer of a drama directed by Isabel Coixet from a screenplay by Miguel Barros.
I consider it one of the worse, if not the worst feature from the Spanish filmmaker whose uneven career comprises solid dramas such as “My Life Without Me”, “The Secret Life of Words”, and “Elegy”, but also other totally dispensable dramatic exercises, cases of “Yesterday Never Ends”, “Maps of the Sounds of Tokyo”, and “Another Me”.
Last year, the tolerable rom-com, “Learning to Drive”, starring the great Patricia Clarkson and the sober Ben Kingsley, seemed to bring Ms. Coixet back to acceptable standards. But unfortunately, “Nobody Wants the Night”, a disastrous blend of soapy drama and futile survival adventure set in 1908, proves the contrary.
The gifted French actress, Juliette Binoche, who did great in last year’s “The Clouds of Sils Maria”, was helpless to give depth to the character of Josephine Peary, the obstinate wife of the Arctic explorer, Robert Peary, who is trying to be the first man to reach the North Pole.
The super confident, Josephine, rejoices while hunting a bear and is very persuasive when she wants something. An insatiable yearning for her husband makes her embark on a perilous journey to join him. In the company of an experienced Irish guide, Bram Trevor (Gabriel Byrne), and a few Arctic indigenous, she hits the snowy and rocky landscapes with tenacity and recklessness when it comes to facing the hardships of the bitter winter.
Even losing her faithful guide in the way, the impulsive Josephine arrives at the shelter where her husband should be, but only finds one of his fellow travelers whose fingers were eaten away by the cold, and Allaka (Rinko Kikuchi), a smiley Eskimo woman who was also eagerly waiting for Robert Peary.
Expecting a severe aggravation of the weather for the following weeks, everyone departs with the exception of Josephine and Allaka who decide to wait for Robert, the man they both unconditionally love.
If the first part was bad, the second was abominable.
The verbal interaction between the women is often irritating and dull while they keep trying to overcome the cultural barriers that make them apart.
At the time when their lives become threatened, they finally understand there's no other alternative besides stand together and unite forces in order to survive. During this last segment, both sentimentality and artifice take over the scenes until we get to the meager conclusion.
The cinematography, by Jean-Claude Larrieu, is the only positive aspect of a poor adventure-drama whose script is the weakest link.