The Sunlit Night is a drama/romance movie directed by David Wnendt and starring Jenny Slate, Zach Galifianakis, Alex Sharp and Fridtjov Såheim.
Feels like home
The Sunlit Night follows Frances as she, after breaking up with her boyfriend and trying to leave the circus that is her family, embarks on a journey to the far north of Norway to work for another artist.
When the movie opened in the Sundance Film Festival in 2019, it received generally negative reviews. Thus, much of the movie’s runtime was cut down. However, even with a measly 82-minute runtime, The Sunlit Night really made an impression on me.
Frances’s art is not getting the critical acclaim that she wants. Her family’s a dumpster fire, and her love-life’s a mess. But she’s optimistic, she has hope. There’s this weird Calming and feel-good factor in the movie that really resonated with me. There’s not a lot that takes place, but even then, there’s a lot going on.
First of all, the gorgeous cinematography is to die for. Be it the cramped spaces of New York City, especially Frances’s home, to the vast expanse of Norway – it’s breathtaking, calming and weirdly cosy. Everything on-screen comes to life in vivid colours, and it’s gorgeous to look at. Then there’s Nils, an artist much like Frances. He doesn’t know how to cope with her talkative demeanour. However, even then, there’s a quiet camaraderie that grows peacefully. The barn project is a chance for Nils to “get back on the map,” literally. And you can see his desperation in his eyes, although he doesn’t speak much of it.
There’s also Yasha, another lost soul who is there to lay his father to rest. Their relationship grows with quiet familiarity. Watching them share screen space feels like they’ve known each other for a long time. His heartbreak at his father’s demise is also quite sad, the way he copes with it, and his relationship with his father is quite emotional.
There’s no big moment in The Sunlit Night. But, it’s the little moments that can make a difference in life. They all piece together to give birth to something more meaningful, like how Frances’s experiences finally give her a clean chit from the judges.
One of the main reasons why The Sunlit Night works for me is for Jenny Slate’s portrayal of Frances. Her screen presence is both strong and calming, and her emotions flow with her facial expressions. You can see the pain and frustration, but at the same time, her determination and hope. She’s resilient, and refuses to back down without a fight.
There are, however, some things that do stick out like a sore thumb. Firstly, it’s Gillian Anderson as Yasha’s mother. She’s there not even for half and hour, and it’s a shame that her character wasn’t explored at all. There’s also this cliched scene where Yasha and Frances gets into an embarrassing situation. It’s a trope that has been done and dusted, and feels kinda out of place here. Also, Yasha’s backstory with his father, although emotional, could’ve been explored a bit more.
Summing up: The Sunlit Night
The Sunlit Night is a delightful watch for all those who are yearning for something calming and want to drown in colours and nature. It doesn’t want to be a deep look at loss or art or anything like that – but is probably just looking to bring some hope in these rather miserable times. It also showcases how art can, in most cases, save people from their misery, and can be an answer to certain problems. It’s a tender approach to coping with life.
Watch The Sunlit Night here.
Read our other reviews here.