SXSW Review: Good Night


[From March 9th – 17th, Flixist will be providing coverage from South by Southwest 2013 in Austin, TX.  Prepare yourselves for reviews, interviews, features, photos, videos, and all types of shenanigans!]

How would you react to news that one of your loved ones was dying? We all have different coping mechanisms that we utilize to get through the pain, but not all of our reactions are the healthiest. More importantly, how can we cope when news directly affects every relationship we cherish?

Good Night attempts to address and capture the effects and reactions of a tightly-knit group of friends.

Good Night trailer SXSW 2013 from Jonny Mars on Vimeo.

Good Night
Director: Sean Gallagher
Rating: N/A
Release Date: March 11, 2013 (SXSW)

Leigh (Adriene Mishler) is throwing a party with her best friends to seemingly celebrate her 29th birthday. However, once all of the guests arrive, she and her husband, Winston (Jonny Mars), drop a bombshell on their friends: She decides to not continue treatment on her leukemia that has recently returned from remission. The rest of the night is spent analyzing how the news affects every individual at the party, and how such news can create or exasperate pre-existing strains amongst the friends.

In attempting to “celebrate” Leigh’s life with a party, the friends inevitably are forced to face the troubles existing their own lives, which range from the responsibilities of parenthood to facing the prospect of an affair. Each minor subplot are interesting and fleshed-out enough so as to not have them feel lazily tacked on for the sake of “character development.” Rather, they feel full and complete, making the supporting characters feel just as developed as the main characters.

However, the bread and butter of the film is the relationship between Leigh and Winston and their ability (or inability) to deal with the situation staring directly back at them. Told through flashbacks, Gallagher was able to cleverly weave his way through the relationship from the prospect of their promising future to the dwindling and trying strength that they find themselves six years after the initial diagnosis. Such scenes are buoyed by Mars’ and Mishler’s comfort and trust in one another’s performances.

With what is arguably a simple premise (“What would you do if you found out your loved one was dying?”), Gallagher was able to use that simple plot to dig deeper into his characters’ lives and pull out emotional frustrations that become larger and visible due to such news. Good Night is just as much a collection of character analyses as it is a narrative focusing on how far we would go in the name of love.