Very rarely, in fact almost never, have I wanted to like a movie that just had so much potential but fell flatter than Judge Doom after being steam rolled than The Sunlit Night. Based on the novel of the same name by Rebecca Dinerstein, who also penned the screenplay, The Sunlit Night struggles to make any of its characters remotely likable, let alone redeemable.
Jenny Slate plays Frances, a fifth rate painter trying to make it in the cut throat New York art scene. Here world gets even more dismal as her parents Levi (David Paymer) and Mirela (Jessica Hecht) announce their divorce in their studio apartment, just as Frances’ sister played by Elise Kibler declares her engagement to a person her parents detest. Frances who just got dumped by her boyfriend and loses out on a residency in Japan has to take the only available job outside a Viking Village in Norway with has-been artist Nils (Fridtjov Såheim) who has her painting a barn by numbers hoping to re-establish himself within the art community.
Along the way Frances meets Yasha (Alex Sharp), a young man who’s Russian father was fascinated by Viking culture that they are planning to perform a Viking funeral for him, which makes zero sense because cremation is forbidden in Judaism. His mother played by Gillian Anderson shows up and intimidates LARPer and captain of the village, Zach Galifianakis and that’s when the movie finally picks up. Really, 40 of the first 50 minutes is just beautiful countryside scenery of Norway.
Frankly, I’m really sad I didn’t like this movie beyond the visual storytelling. It has a cast of talented actors, a coming of age story and is quite European in its presentation. Director, David Wnendt has an incredible eye for detail and made me want to visit Scandinavia once we can return to traveling overseas. My gripe is that it shouldn’t take 47 minutes to finally get interesting in a film that is only an hour and 22 minutes including the credits.
Truthfully, I will probably give The Sunlit Night a second chance maybe around next winter but for now, my review stands at it’s a gorgeous film with little to nothing in the growth of its characters. Uh, I really wanted to like it, especially because of all the potential. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe if it had another 40 minutes, then I would have enjoyed it more.
The Sunlit Night is available on VOD, Friday, July 17, 2020.
The Sunlit Night is a gorgeous film that finds its footing and humor 20 minutes too late. If it had another 40 minutes, this film would have been one I would have watched a second time within the same week.