When attempting to achieve artistic greatness, filmmakers (or auteurs) as they are often described as or want to be described as, there are varying opinions when these directors try to pass off their work as “brilliant”. Art is a highly subjective thing and when a film like Days and Nights is made and features strong themes, decent acting and a script full of pretentiousness, questions may arise and confusion runs rampant. That confusion stems from the fact that all of the actors including writer/director/actor Christian Camargo (Dexter, The Hurt Locker) believe that this film is high art. It sadly is not and it tries so hard to be.
Drawing inspiration from Anton Chekhov’s play The Seagull, Days and Nights is a prime example of a movie that tries its absolute best to be artsy. Sadly, the results are forced and lukewarm at best. The story is lacking as well which is set in rural New England during Memorial Day weekend circa 1984. Fading actress Elizabeth (Allison Janney) and her younger boyfriend Peter (Camargo) visit her random and very eccentric family over the weekend which includes ailing Herb (William Hurt), her troubled son Eric (Ben Whislaw), his muse of a girlfriend Eva (Juliet Rylance), withdrawn Alex (Katie Holmes), her conservationist husband Stephen (Mark Rylance), caretaker Johan (Michael Nyqvist), his wife Mary (Cherry Jones), the family doctor Louis (Jean Reno) and the estate custodian Big Jim (Russell Means). Over the course of the weekend, this eclectic group experiences tragedy, conflict and just a huge series of unfortunate events.
The cast in Days and Nights is what anchors the film in terms of quality but it really isn’t enough to turn the mediocrity of the script and plot into a true cinematic gem. There are many moments within the film that have the actors staring into space or just sitting around. It is during these scenes that may make the viewer cringe. Is Camargo really trying this hard? The answer is “yes” and unfortunately, the payoff isn’t very high. The dialogue is empty and with little to no point. He could have featured amateur actors and the results would have been exactly the same. It’s just a shame that he wasted good money on a talented and experienced cast to recite his uninspired dialogue.
Steve Cosen’s (Snow Cake, The Tracey Fragments) cinematography is the real star here. He shoots the New England landscape in a way that is not just beautiful but chock full of artistry and depth. The scenery is the real highlight here and it’s a shame the same can’t be said about the screenplay. The cast in Days and Nights did their best in this film, that much is obvious. There is wit and charm sprinkled throughout but sadly not enough to warrant a 92-minute runtime. Camargo could have benefited by writing a tighter script in which stuff actually happens. Perhaps Days and Nights could benefit from a few more viewings but that doesn’t seem very likely. This is a film that will probably polarize audiences, those who respect the work of Chekhov and get excited to see it interpreted in a new way and those audiences who like to be entertained and stimulated during a trip to the cinema, not bored to tears.
Days and Nights will be released theatrically on September 26, 2014