WRITTEN BY: Erik Poppe, Harald Rosenløw-Eeg
DIRECTED BY: Erik Poppe
STARRING: Juliette Binoche, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lauryn Canny
RATING: 4 stars
Although A Thousand Times Goodnight is not based on any specific real life events, its relevance to modern journalism is significant. The film will resonate with audiences because it depicts the daily struggles of freelance war photographers in terrifying situations as they try to get the perfect photograph to show the horrors happening in parts of the world that most of us would never visit. It also shows their life at home and what it is like for their families who live in constant fear that their loved one will be killed. The film tries a little too hard to push its point at times, especially on the impact of the family life, but it is the war scenes that are the most compelling and insightful.
The first 15 minutes are immediately gripping, depicting the preparation of a woman who is about to become a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Fearless photographer Rebecca Thomas (Juliette Binoche) is there to document the process and even rides in a car with the woman into a marketplace populated with young families. She manages to get away and shouts for everyone to flee from a bomb, but it is too late. Many die in the blast and Rebecca is injured. She returns home to her husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and their two daughters who have become used to Rebecca being away, but this latest brush with death has changed their outlook on her work. Rebecca agrees to stay home and work in less dangerous situations, but when her daughter gets a school project on Africa, she thinks it may be a perfect opportunity to visit the country for some mother-daughter bonding. Of course, it does not turn out to be as safe as she had hoped.
Binoche is mesmerising as a woman torn between her passion for the job and her maternal duties. She loves the adrenaline rush but she also hopes to change the world with her photographs and that is commendable. It is interesting that director/co-writer Erik Poppe has made the protagonist a mother and lumped all the maternal criticisms on top of what is already a stressful but important job no matter what the person's gender is. It makes you wonder how differently the story might have been portrayed if it had been a male photographer. Coster-Waldau is also very good, encouraging the audience's sympathies. Young actress Lauryn Canny, who plays their oldest daughter, is equally compelling in what is a tough role to portray.
A Thousand Times Goodnight unfairly simplifies some issues and unnecessarily intensifies others. At times, it is a little melodramatic, but it is also a powerful and thought-provoking tale that is so relevant in today's world where we are confronted with a new terrorist threat and journalists are risking their lives in ways they never have before.