American painter Frances (Jenny Slate) leaves her life behind in New York and heads to the Norwegian Arctic circle to find inspiration. Relocating to a remote village, Frances becomes an apprentice for frustrated artist Nils (Fridtjov Såheim), who has a short temper and shows no interest in wanting to make small talk. She also crosses paths with Yasha (Alex Sharp), a fellow New Yorker who has gone to Norway to mourn the loss of his father, and the two form an unexpected connection.
‘The Sunlit Night’ is based on the novel of the same name by Rebecca Dinerstein, who has written the screenplay for this film adaptation. Taking an odd premise, the film is a coming-of-age story of sorts with Frances trying to find her place in the world away from the chaos of her soon-to-be-separating parents. Frances initially misunderstands her role with Nils, gushing when she first meets him only to be met with a rude abruptness she wasn’t expecting.
Much of the story from that point is a typical fish-out-of-water narrative through a quirky lens. Frances meets a group of Vikings only to find out their leader Haldor (Zach Galifianakis) is actually an American playing pretend and she forms a romantic relationship, which lacks chemistry or believability, with Yasha who has come to Norway to bury his father in the land of the Vikings. The film’s biggest problem is the story doesn’t hook you in at all. You can’t really relate to the characters and it tries so hard to be quirky, that it’s more off-putting than it is compelling.
Jenny Slate remains a compelling stage presence but she’s not given anything here that allows her to show off her talents. As Frances she brings her unique brand of quirk to the role but there’s not enough meet here for her to truly shine. A small, and odd, cameo for Gillian Anderson falls into the same category, which is disappointing as a film with these two fantastic women should be a must-watch.
‘The Sunlit Night’ sadly just isn’t a very enjoyable experience. The plot meanders without ever really going anywhere, the characters never become more than two dimensional caricatures, and by the time the end arrives, you’ll probably feel more relieved than fulfilled. There’s a good idea in here somewhere but the execution makes ‘The Sunlit Night’ much more of a slog than it needed to be.
Cast: Jenny Slate, Alex Sharp, Fridtjov Såheim, Gillian Anderson, Zach Galifianakis Director: David Wnendt Writer: Rebecca Dinerstein Certificate: 15 Duration: 106 mins Released by: Blue Finch Film Releasing Release date: 16th November 2020