Five Nights in Maine (2015)

fivenightsinmaine_2015_poster
  • Time: 82 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Maris Curran
  • Cast: Teyonah Parris, David Oyelowo, Dianne Wiest

Storyline:

A young African American man, reeling from the tragic loss of his wife, travels to rural Maine to seek answers from his estranged mother-in-law, who is herself confronting guilt and grief over her daughter’s death.

One comment

  • One night would have sufficed, one hour would have been a mercy. Writer-director Maris Curran was fortunate enough to land David Oyelowo and Dianne Wiest for her sophomore effort, Five Nights in Maine, but their magnetism and excellence are no match for the tediousness that pervades Curran’s observation on grief and loss.

    Oyelowo stars as Sherwin, who is reeling from the death of his wife Fiona (Hani Furstenberg), with whom he was seen in a tender embrace at the onset of the film. Sofian El Fani’s handheld camera lingers on Oyelowo as the shock assaults him, first crippling him of coherent speech then buckling his knees until he crumples to the floor. Sherwin paralyses himself with alcohol, roused only to consciousness and activity by his sister (Teyonah Parris), who tries in vain to get him to focus on funeral arrangements.

    Instead, Sherwin accepts an invitation from his mother-in-law Lucinda (Wiest) to come visit her at her home in rural Maine. The invitation is a surprising one since it’s been hinted that Lucinda and Fiona had a fractious estrangement and Sherwin – or rather, Sherwin being African-American – may be its root cause. Indeed, the cancer-stricken Lucinda welcomes Sherwin with all the warmth of a viper eyeing its prey and Curran presents viewers with one awkward meal after another as the two express their disdain and resentment via a parade of withering glances and weighted silences. The two appear engaged in some bizarre competition over who possesses more grief and guilt over Fiona’s death.

    The film’s restraint and subtlety is admirable, but its opacity makes for ponderous viewing. In between cataclysms, Curran dwells on moments of mundanity – Sherwin washing dishes, Sherwin cleaning up spilled flour and broken shards, Sherwin recalling scenes from his marriage that suggest discord over starting a family, Sherwin dealing with racism not only from Lucinda, but from the other residents from the town, some of whom shoot him with distrustful looks, others who take shots at him in the forest (or perhaps they were hunting for deer?).

    Oyelowo and Wiest are excellent. Wiest, in particular, is frightening in her imperious, seething fury. Yet both she and Oyewolo are a bit undermined by Curran’s deliberate understatement. The whole effort feels mannered and unnatural and, because Curran refuses to plumb the depths of the narrative, ultimately becomes something robotic rather than human.

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