That Good Night
dir Eric Styles
scr Charles Savage
prd Alan Latham, Charles Savage
with John Hurt, Sofia Helin, Max Brown, Erin Richards, Charles Dance, Noah Jupe, Joana Santos, Sonita Henry, Eloise Oliver, Salvador Nery, Georgina White, Tiago Aldeia
release UK 11.May.18
17/UK 1h32
That Good Night
Do not go gentle: Helin and Hurt

hurt dance jupe
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
That Good Night Anchored by John Hurt's final lead performance, this quietly moving drama explores ideas about families and mortality without ever turning maudlin. Based on the stage play by NJ Crisp, the rather heavy-handed dialog sits at odds with Eric Styles' loose, airy direction. So while it feels like a small-screen drama, Hurt's riveting presence makes it worth a look.

Acclaimed British writer Ralph (Hurt) is living out his years on the Algarve with his younger wife Anna (Helin). And he hasn't yet told her about a terminal diagnosis he has just received from his doctor. As he puts his affairs in order, he asks his son Michael (Brown) to come for a visit, hoping to make a connection he never managed before. But Michael brings his girlfriend Cassie (Richards), which causes a few sparks. Meanwhile, Ralph is negotiating with an enigmatic man (Dance) from The Society, to go out on his own terms.

The sun-drenched southern Portugal setting augments the film's more otherworldly elements, as if this beautiful, isolated place is Ralph's purgatory after a life ignoring most of his loved ones. He has a remarkably authentic relationship with Anna, who puts up with his excesses because she can see the real man beneath the curmudgeon. Still, the film lacks much in the way of textures, remaining relatively stagebound in its single location, limited cast and and a plot that plays out largely in the dialog.

Within this, Hurt shines in an intricate role as a loner who has reluctantly opened himself up to very few people. The scenes in which he mentors the young son (Jupe) of a housekeeper (Santos) feel oddly unfinished, but his scenes with Brown's Michael have a terrific ripple of real-life tensions and expectations. And his interaction with Helin's Anna carries the kick of 20 years of give and take. By contrast, the encounters with Dance's stranger are introspective and nicely surreal.

The discussion of mortality here is an intriguing one, never getting lost down philosophical rabbit holes. This is the story of a man who has built such a shell around him that he doesn't see a reason to continue living once his health begins to fail. Oddly, Crisp's script takes a side in the moral dilemma, even as it grapples with the wider issue. This gives the film a slightly preachy tone. And yet Hurt and the surrounding cast offer such beautifully complex characters that they make sure we keep thinking even when the story seems to offer the answers.

cert 12 themes, language 23.Apr.18

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