Maris Curran’s Five Nights in Maine is a contemplative meditation on grief. Emphasis on meditation because although reasonably short, a bulk of this film’s runtime is spent following its lead character as he meanders through nature and contemplates sadness. It prioritizes mood over plot and your enjoyment will be greatly dictated by how enticing having that particular itch scratched sounds. Or if you even have an itch for that sort of thing to begin with.
The concept is straight forward. The love of Sherwin’s (David Oyelowo) life, Fiona (Hani Furstenberg), unexpectedly passes away in an automobile accident, leaving Sherwin to stew in his depression and hopelessness. Soon after, Lucinda (Dianne Wiest), his late wife’s mother in law and cause to Fiona’s heartache when she was alive, contacts Sherwin and asks him to travel to Maine so they can acquaint for the first time. There, Sherwin explores Fiona’s painful past with her mother and attempts to navigate his trauma alongside the bitter and severely ill Lucinda.
Curran, a first time director, makes the deliberate choice to keep the camera consistently tight on her actor’s faces in order to keep their emotional mourning front and center. An overall rewarding choice as Oyelowo and Wiest’s performances are what carry this otherwise bare-bones story. The scenes where these two actors go toe to toe, scoring points on each other with the subtlest of jabs and expressions makes for a watchable experience. Oyelowo wins the movie early on with one of the rawest and truest reactions to the unexpected news of tragedy that I’ve seen on screen in recent memory.
The movie’s most persistent flaw is its lack of anything engaging regarding its characters outside of the despair they feel over losing their shared loved one. Rosie Perez steps in for a handful of scenes as Lucinda’s 24/7 nurse as an attempt to add some reprieve from the doom and gloom of the two main players, but it falls flat. Her one provided platform for adding some comedic flavoring by telling an inappropriately dark story about a nearby lighthouse to Sherwin unfortunately misses its humorous mark, and for the remainder of the movie is given very little else to do, let alone add some color to the darkness. Even Sherwin, our protagonist, is lacking as a fully fleshed out character. Outside his heartache, he really has no defining attributes. He appears to be a business man, but we are equipped with no insight into that side of his life. Every significant aspect about himself apparently revolves around Fiona both before and after her death.
All said and done, this would likely play out far better as a short than a feature. It feels stretched out in order to reach its runtime. But enough with the woulda’, coulda’, shoulda’. However limited the ideas this movies sets out to explore, it explores them well enough. At its core, its about the hard bite of life and fighting to not let it turn you cold and bitter. Sherwin is forced to confront what he may someday become when he meets Lucinda, a sour old hermit, undone by a cruel hand in life. And in between this primary conflict, we explore, along with Sherwin, Maine’s sometimes giving and sometimes unforgiving natural habitat, to discover that hardship and good fortune must coexist.
This one’s currently streaming on Netflix. Give it a watch if you’re in a downer mood, or someone close to you just passed away, or you just went through a breakup, or your dog just died, or you’re home sick…or you just plain find sad things comforting.