A Thousand Times Good Night opens with a harrowing sequence as a group of women attend what seems to be a burial in the desert outside of Kabul.
But the “corpse” isn’t dead – yet. She’s participating in a grim ritual before donning a vest loaded with explosives en route to martyrdom as a suicide bomber.
Watching all this unfold is celebrated war-zone photographer Rebecca (Juliette Binoche, The English Patient), her camera clicking fiercely.
But the mission goes awry, Rebecca is seriously hurt in a premature explosion, and her husband, Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones), comes to shepherd her back home to her family in far-away Ireland.
Rebecca quickly discovers that she has traded one war zone for another: Her two young daughters are horrified at her near-death experience, and Marcus is so furious at what he sees as her self-indulgent recklessness that he demands she quit her job…or say goodbye to her family. “Do you have any idea what it’s like waiting for that call to collect your body?” he barks.
Rebecca heals slowly from her wounds, and gradually reconnects with her daughters.
Even angry Marcus eventually stops sleeping on the couch and re-bonds with the fearless woman with a bottomless passion for social justice.
Rebecca vows to lead a quieter life, but events quickly slip sideways during a supposedly safe trip to a refugee camp in Kenya with her teenage daughter. The resulting crisis and its aftermath effectively dramatize the conflict between duty and family that forms the heart of the film.
Directed by Norway’s Erik Poppe (Troubled Water), who, himself, used to be a war photographer for Reuters, Thousand is powerful, honest, and thoughtful. Appropriately for a film about a photographer, it is also handsomely shot.
Although nobody is likely to accuse this drama of being overly subtle, it does a fine job of examining both the possibly mixed motives of this risk-taking mother and the harsh impact her choices have on her family.
But what really brings the film to life is the powerful and marvellously nuanced performance by Binoche. Is Oscar watching?
Thousand opens at the Vic Theatre on October 24 for a one-week run.
Stars Juliette Binoche and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Directed by Erik Poppe
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