Film Review: A Thousand Times Goodnight

I was hooked and grabbed by A Thousand Times Goodnight from the minute I saw the trailer. While the subject matter maybe potentially a little harrowing for some, there was just something about it that isn’t drew my attention. An appealing quality, a visual clarity that seemed to suggest that whatever the moral debate of a plot based around photographers in danger zones, this film would provide more than just a shock tactic story, or a flimsy narrative argument. If I’m honest, it just looked visual class.

And it also stars Juliette Binoche, who I absolutely adore, even if I can never work out why as I never seem to come out of her films as impressed as when I went in. Chocolat and Certified Copy being perfect examples. And sadly, this sense of unmet expectations has happened again, because the movie the trailer sold me is a long, long way from the story that you get to enrol in.

Juliette Binoche (Camera) - A Thousand Times Goodnight

Things are so different I almost feel cheated!

A Thousand Times Goodnight isn’t a story, debate or question about photographing death and danger, putting your life at risk to capture the moment, for good or bad, to ensure the event is recorded and the message spread. Instead A Thousand Times Goodnight is the destructive tale of a single character, who just happens to be apparently a very good war photographer. It’s the look at the mental torture this life has on the person holding the camera, and the people left behind who love them.

And this complete skew from what I was expected, actually, wasn’t overly disappointing because the story you get is very powerful, very descriptive and feels correct in it’s stance and it’s actions and a wonderful psychological look at the thought processes that drive the responses and emotions of everyone involved. As a story it really gets under you skin and slowly ticks away. It doesn’t panic you or raise your heart rate as you fear for danger or suspense, but rather it angers you. But in a good way.

Juliette Binoche & Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - A Thousand Times Goodnight

And that’s why I feel cheated, because this film told me to expect war zones and danger. I expected a faster paced film almost looking through the lens, forcing the emotions seen and recorded into me, to feel the rush of adrenaline or the moment of fear and instead I got a tale set purely in the safety of the family home. Where the fighting was vocal. People trying to understand the motives and drives behind why someone would forgo their responsibilities, and maternal love, for unknown strangers and future generations.

There is nothing wrong with this new angle, the actual story, because it is very impressively put together and portrayed but I couldn’t relax into it. Because it is so far removed and more insular, my mind was constantly wandering trying to work out quite how these new pieces fitted together; constantly waiting for the film to turn into the ideas of the trailer. Expecting it to almost twist into the picture in my head at every cut.

Juliette Binoche - A Thousand Times Goodnight

Even though, I was always slightly distracted, Juliette Binoche’s performance stills jumps out and needs commending. She really is stunning and manages to balance the cerebral destructiveness of reliving everything she sees and captures through her lens with the rush, the fix, the need to be there, to not sit still, to not be a Mother desire that drives her from the start. You can physically see the tearing pain of not wanting to be there in the now fracturing the need to instantly return the minute she is parted. It’s very much a performance of power through the unspoken word, and it’s just such a shame it’s let down by the film around it being so conflicted in my head.

A Thousand Times Goodbye deserves to be far, far more recognised that it is. Yes, it is harrowing in the extreme at times, and captures a subject that can arguably count as a taboo, but it’s a stunning, honest story, that is layered to really get under your skin. It’s problem though is that aside from Juliette Binoche’s performance there isn’t actually that much else to hold it together, and while it’s certainly worth seeing for her single command alone, it just doesn’t do enough, or pack quite enough power, to combine everything around her into a quality end product. I finished, feeling like I’d just had to settle for second best.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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