Film Review – The Sunlit Night

The Sunlit Night is the fourth feature film directed by David Wnendt and based on the popular novel of the same name, by Rebecca Dinerstein.

The film follows struggling painter Frances (Jenny Slate), who is having no critical success with her artwork and is stuck in a bit of a rut. Frances breaks up with her boyfriend, her sister announces her engagement and her parents announce they are separating almost all at once. It’s a whirlwind of emotions, which leads to a dramatic and life changing decision – albeit a necessary one.

Taking a new job as an apprentice, Frances escapes her Manhattan life to the beautiful lands of Norway. It is here that she begins the apprenticeship with a grumpy artist, Nils (Fridtjov Såheim). Frances begins helping Nils restore an old barn in order to turn it into an art installation. The days are long and the work is dull, but this gives Frances the opportunity to reflect on life and her choices she has made.

A Viking funeral, a dull romance – there’s a lot going on in the second half of the film. Unfortunately none of it was interesting enough to fully capture my attention.

My main issues with The Sunlit Night are the pace and tone of the film, as it just seems all over the place. The first twenty or so minutes of the film makes it feel like a quirky comedy, then a drama, then a romance… it just didn’t work for me. I know there was a longer cut of the film, and I’d be interested to see if it somehow made sense of the abrupt changes in pace and tone.

As unenjoyable as I found the film, Jenny Slate is fantastic as ever and manages to make her quiet character really funny and a joy to watch. Unfortunately the romance her character finds herself in is incredibly dull, but Slate works well with what she’s been given.

The highest praise I can bestow upon this film however, has to go to cinematographer Martin Ahlgren. Wow. Those landscapes. Absolutely breathtaking shots are seen throughout this film from the moment Frances arrives in Norway. It’s just a shame that I found more entertainment in the scenery than what was happening in the forefront.

The Sunlit Night is out now in the UK and Ireland on Digital HD.


Drama, Romance | USA, 2019 | 15 | Digital HD | 16th November 2020 (UK) | Blue Finch Films | Dir.David Wnendt | Jenny Slate, Alex Sharp, Fridtjov Såheim, Gillian Anderson, Gillian Anderson, David Paymer