Review: ‘Five Nights in Maine’


05FIVENIGHTS1-master180Maris Curran had plenty of opportunities to insert a cheesy plot twist into “Five Nights in Maine,” her delicate drama about loss and its aftermath. Yet she stayed true to her intentions, and the result is a believable character study that may not draw crowds but certainly challenges its two lead actors.

David Oyelowo, who played the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma,” portrays a man named Sherwin, whose idyllic-seeming life is derailed by the death of his young wife. This sends him on a sort of pilgrimage to visit her mother, Lucinda, in Maine. They are not well acquainted, though he does know that there was a simmering tension between Lucinda and his wife, a subject tiptoed around during his visit.

Ms. Curran, who wrote and directed, could have pulled a dark family secret out of the hat at any point: a dead twin buried in the backyard, sexual abuse by a weird uncle, whatever. That’s what we’ve come to expect in these types of family-excavation stories. But the revelations here are subtle rather than shocking; Ms. Curran has her actors show rather than tell.

It helps that the other star, Dianne Wiest, who plays Lucinda, is very good at that sort of thing. Lucinda had her own struggles even before her daughter’s death (Rosie Perez plays her nurse), and now her brand of survivor guilt is very different from Sherwin’s. Ms. Wiest and Mr. Oyelowo probe the pain slowly and convincingly. In the end, you may feel as if you didn’t know enough about either character. Some may consider that a weakness of this spare film, but it can also be viewed as a strength.

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