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IFFBoston ’16 Review: Five Nights in Maine

Imagine learning more about someone you loved posthumously, but through someone they didn’t get along with? “Five Nights in Maine,” from Writer/Director Maris Curran is a really interesting story of mourning, starring David Oyelowo and the incredible Dianne Wiest. 

The film opens with a sweet moment, Fiona (Hani Furstenberg) and Sherwin (Oyelowo) lie in bed, tickling and horsing around. Before we even get to know much about Fiona, Sherwin gets a phone call from the police that Fiona has died in a car accident.

With his wife gone, Sherwin has fallen apart. He spends his days reminiscing about their last few conversations, one of which was Fiona planning a visit with her estranged and terminally ill mother Lucinda (Wiest). In the midst of his lonely mourning, Sherwin receives an invite from his mother-in-law to spend a few days up in Maine to keep each other company during this time. We’re hinted with a few flashbacks on how Lucinda attempted to drive Fiona and Sherwin apart, but despite that Sherwin sets out for Maine.

The film is an interesting look at the grieving process. These characters didn’t interact much before Fiona’s passing, and only came together because of their shared connection. Sherwin moves through the memories of his wife, and gets to know more about Fiona’s difficult relationship with her mother is a fascinating character study.

Wiest plays Lucinda perfectly, cold, calculated and seemingly heartless, but clearly with some deep seeded emotions. Oyelowo’s performance is raw, gut-wrenching, and his pain relatable.

The film was lensed by Sofia El Fani, known for his work on “Blue is the Warmest Color,” and “Timbuktu.” Uniquely, almost all of “Five Nights in Maine” is shot entirely with a close up. This provides a unique layer of intimacy in this story. The more pain Sherwin feels, the closer the camera gets.

Many films deal with learning about someone’s life posthumously, but “Five Nights in Maine,” does it in a unique way – with Sherwin learning the complexities of his wife’s relationship with her mother first hand, and finally learning why she had to escape. Definitely worth checking out on the festival circuit.

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