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Review: ‘1,000 Times Good Night’ powerfully frames a postwar life

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Juliette Binoche in "1,000 Times Goodnight."
(Handout)

As the photojournalist at the center of “1,000 Times Good Night,” a seasoned pro who specializes in war zones, the reliably riveting Juliette Binoche is an outraged witness and relentless chronicler. She’s also a woman at a crossroads.

Healing from an injury sustained in a bombing and faced with her long-suffering husband’s ultimatum, she decides that she’s “not doing conflict anymore.” But walking away from her professional mission is no easy thing, even as new conflicts play out on the personal front.

Director Erik Poppe, a former photojournalist, emphasizes the parallels between a soldier’s post-combat adjustments to civilian life and the experience of his protagonist. Back home in Ireland with her marine biologist husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and their daughters, Rebecca is out of place and somewhat bored. Binoche embodies a fearless, marrow-deep compulsion and the guilt that complicates it.

The film can be intensely moving, yet there’s a self-congratulatory tone to much of it, especially in the domestic drama. Poppe and screenwriter Harald Rosenlow Eeg don’t soft-pedal the ways that Rebecca messes up and disappoints her picture-perfect family, but they do insist that she’s a hero. The adolescent daughter (Lauryn Canny) who’s showing an interest in her work provides an opportunity for Rebecca to explain why it matters. In a hard-to-buy development, together they visit a Kenyan refugee camp. Other people’s suffering becomes kindling for a mother-daughter clash and rapprochement.

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Navigating the tricky terrain between Western privilege and devastating horrors in the developing world, the similarly themed “War Story,” starring Catherine Keener, found a more believable balance. But Poppe crafts some powerful scenes that pose questions not easily answered.
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“1,000 Times Good Night”

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 2 hours.

Playing: Laemmle’s Royal, West Los Angeles; Regency South Coast Village 3, Santa Ana.


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