Directed by veteran war photographer, Erik Poppe, A Thousand Times Goodnight presents us with the story of Rebecca (Juliette Binoche) who is one of world’s top war photojournalists, travelling to various war-torn locations to capture chilling images of modern war. Her passion for her career and the role she plays in bringing this Third-world horror to the attention of the First is clear, but Rebecca is also a wife and mother, leaving behind a very worried husband and two young daughters each time she takes a new assignment.
The film opens with an extremely provocative scene where Rebecca chronicles the ritual of preparing a female suicide-bomber for her task. Whilst Rebecca is there to document, and actively avoids being involved, her mere presence inadvertently compromises the situation and nearly causes her death. Afterwards, her husband Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) delivers an ultimatum: give up the dangerous profession or lose her family forever. A tough decision for a woman not only convinced that her photos can make a difference, but who also feels a strong sense of duty to continue this important work.
When Rebecca is offered an assignment to photograph a safe refugee camp in Kenya, she takes her daughter Steph (Lauryn Canny) along in an effort to cure her feelings of abandonment but of course, everything goes wrong.
Work versus family is familiar territory for female protagonists. Of course the potent analogy of war is obvious. Rebecca captures images of physical warfare on her camera, but she is herself in an emotional war; one with herself and one with her family. Torn between the passion for her work and her love for her family; she has a difficult decision to make. The irony perhaps is how much Rebecca sees through the lens of her camera but how blind she is to the needs of her family; of the sadness her constant absence causes and the constant anxiety the knowledge of where she is evokes.
I can’t not like Juliette Binoche. Quietly commanding on screen in all of her roles, she has a familiar warmth and strength to her that shines through in all of the characters she plays. While the content swings between compelling and contrived, Binoche’s eager and honest portrayal of Rebecca and her very real dilemma definitely make her the hero of this film. She is compelling to watch while Coster-Waldau and Canny provide raw and moving supporting performances.
A Thousand Times Goodnight is beautifully shot and certainly not short on adrenaline. While the screenplay does display weaknesses and some will be disappointed by the worn out theme, this film raises some very important questions that should never stop being asked and reiterates the sentiment that every task one undertakes in life should be executed with both passion and courage.
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