“I hope it was worth it, the picture,” Steph (Lauryn Canny) to mother Rebecca (Juliette Binoche)
A twee title for a sentimental film. In actress Binoche we should trust, but picking unusual projects sometimes means they end up less than satisfactory; and that’s three in a row for our intrepid creative, see also: CAMILLE CLAUDEL 1915 and WORDS AND PICTURES. Hopefully this summer’s GODZILLA will put her back on track. After all, ELLES and CERTIFIED COPY weren’t that long ago.
Binoche’s Rebecca Thomas is in the top tier of the world’s war photographers. (If you want to see how good they can be, check out documentary MCCULLIN). Opening on a shaft of light amid the darkness, Thomas is taken to an unnamed desert locale. There, she witnesses the funeral of a woman, it initially appears; except she rises from the grave. We are not in the supernatural genre, rather a ritual; for the women is being prepared as a suicide bomber. Rebecca follows the woman into Kabul, Afghanistan documenting.
Questions of intervention, versus journalistic distance, are not raised psychologically until just before the weapon goes off in a crowded market square. Such a moral dilemma is not really explored, bar the occasional allusion to post-traumatic stress disorder once back at home. Upside down imagery of Rebecca underwater is meant to convey some sort of turmoil. It doesn’t – and typifies A THOUSAND TIMES GOOD NIGHT’s prettily inappropriate cinematography. Unless you’re making THE THIN RED LINE, war zones as twilight beauty do not sit right.
Home is Ireland, with her Danish marine biologist husband, Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), and two young daughters. An eclectic household, especially when one of the family’s best friends is played randomly by U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. Marcus brought her back from an overseas hospital. Battered physically and delicate emotionally, no respite is given by her family, who basically demand she give up her illustrious career for their own peace of mind. Their own selfishness is not even remarked upon; being a war photographer domestic goddess is what the movie is concerned with. Gender reversal, where the lady is given the dangerous job is the standout notion. That Rebecca actually makes a difference is not acknowledged by her kin.
“How can the U.N. allow this to happen?!” exclaims Thomas. Really?! Only now you’ve realised the limitations of the United Nations? Minor mentions of dubious multi-national corporations, governments and military are just not enough. Geopolitics is sidestepped in favour of syrupy, mawkish domestic melodrama.