Having to spend Five Nights in Maine sounds like a daunting and chilling proposition. The film isn’t either of those. What it is though is a whole lot of anticipation for something to happen, that never does. The plot revolves around a man named Sherman (David Oyelowo) coping with the sudden loss of his wife Fiona (Hani Furstenberg). He goes to visit his estranged mother-in-law, Lucinda (Dianne Wiest), in Maine in an attempt to mend each others’ grief. That’s actually pretty much the entire synopsis of the movie.
There is no denying that the acting of Oyelowo and Wiest carries the movie. Top-notch performances. The movie feels more like a theatrical play, due to the heavy character focus and interaction. The issue of grief and loss is apparent in the way the characters handle themselves, but it does get boring after a while.
The problem with the movie is mainly due to the lack of intrigue or suspense. It just sort of happens and treads along. The self-discoveries are there to an extent. The are no stakes though. So what are these two people trying to get out of each other? Peace? Help with coping with losing the person they loved? Forming a friendship that’s bridged through the lost loved one? If these two characters never speak again, nothing in their lives changes. This is sort of an empty meeting and getting to know phase. They bicker a lot, and don’t find any grounds of agreement. The purpose of Sherman’s trip to Maine is so they can reminisce and learn things about Hani that each of them didn’t know, but instead they just touch on the subject and remain stubborn to their agendas.
You can’t blame the actors, they do nice work, the plot and lack of a destination is the drawback that results in a less than satisfying payoff at the end. Maybe it’s exactly what the filmmakers wanted to accomplish. I’ll play devil’s advocate here and assume that the filmmakers wanted the film to feel empty and not have any sort of resolution. In that way, it’s true to life and reality, where there might not be an answer or a dramatic turning point. This is a movie however, and as much as you would like to base it on reality; people still want to be entertained, and not be bored.
Five Nights in Maine is a movie with niche appeal. There is a mature audience that could appreciate it and try to understand it. It fits in the mold of a movie like 45 Years. Even though that latter has a much more complex and developed plot.The plain straightforward nature of it gives you an idea of what you’re in for from the start. Prior to seeing the film, the goof in me thought this was some sort of thriller. This film had a lot more potential, with a plot that could have been explored a lot further with the discovery of a person’s life story through the eyes of the people closest to them. They played it very safe and overly simplistic. Ultimately, Five Nights in Maine is a film that’s centered on a heavy and sad subject matter that ends up feeling empty.
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