Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE: Underacted And Underwhelming [SFIFF 2016]

David Oyelowo Dianne Wiest Five Nights In Maine

Five Nights in Maine (2015) Film Review from the 59th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival, a movie directed by Maris Curran, and starring Dianne Wiest, David Oyelowo, Rosie Perez, Teyonah Parris, Bill Raymond, and Hani Furstenberg.

Every so often, one encounters a film that simply baffles them, but not because, say, the plot is incomprehensible or because the acting is abysmal. On the contrary, such films often have potentially interesting stories to tell as well as proven casts more than capable of carrying such movies. With enviable resources like this, it seems like a given that the film will be great. Yet somehow, the story never takes off and the cast never clicks: although the film can’t be said to be actively bad, it can’t be said to be particularly good either. Exhibit A is Five Nights in Maine, a quaint little drama that appears very promising initially but leaves audiences feeling emptier than they felt beforehand.

Setting viewers up for what appears to be a moving, if somewhat conventional tearjerker, we learn that that most awful of tragedies has befallen Sherwin (Oyelowo): his wife Fiona (Furstenberg) has died. For such serious subject matter, you might expect the film to make some effort to treat it as such. At the very least, one would hope that it would even utilize a degree of melodrama in it’s handling of the subject. This would not be the stuff of cinematic history, yes, but then it could be said in fairness that the movie’s crew was trying, however feebly, to make viewers feel invested in the plot and characters.

But instead of being given a project that tries too hard to affect audiences, we are given a film that just can’t be bothered for the life of it to try and get viewers to care about it. Almost all of the actors underplay their parts, with Oyewolo managing to make it through the entire movie without ever once convincing us that he is genuinely moved by the material he is working with. Ironically, the only cast member who appears to benefit from this visibly-restrained acting regime is Rosie Perez, who plays a companion of Sherwin who tries to comfort him through his time of need. Maybe it’s because one is so used to seeing Perez play loud characters in largely comedic features that seeing her play a dramatic role in a subdued manner strikes one as more of a novelty than it really is.

The only character who even approaches the fringes of believability is Dianne Wiest’s Lucinda, which should say a lot about the quality of the other cast members’ acting. Sherwin’s predictably overbearing mother-in-law, Lucinda serves little purpose other than to make condescending remarks and cast doubt on his relationship with Fiona, insinuating that she only married him because she felt marrying an African-American man would strike the rest of her family as taboo. Again, one imagines that this was supposed to strike viewers as shocking or disheartening, but the film’s failure to build capital in regards to it’s narrative or characters render it more tasteless than anything. One can also assume that Sherwin and Lucinda’s making up after she narrowly survives a sudden medical emergency was meant to be similarly significant, but since no real attempt was made to make it so, it goes without saying that it isn’t.

While it can’t be said that Five Nights in Maine is a wholly bad film, it can easily be called the one thing that might be even worse than a bad film: a boring one. Viewers won’t come away feeling angry or otherwise offended, but that’s only because they won’t be feeling anything. Come to think of it actually, one might feel relief at the realization that the movie was relatively short. On the off chance that you’ve got an hour and twenty minutes to kill, feel free to check out Five Nights in Maine.

Rating: 5/10

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About the author

Reggie Peralta

I am a recent UCLA political science graduate and current Fullerton College Radio and Television/Video Production student.

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