Sunday, April 14, 2024

“THE PASSENGERS OF NIGHT”

THE STORY – On election night in 1981, celebrations spill out onto the street and there is an air of hope and change throughout Paris. But for Elisabeth, her marriage is coming to an end, and she will now have to sup- port herself and her two teenage children. She finds work at a late-night radio show and encounters a troubled teenager named Talulah whom she invites into her home. With them, Talulah experiences the warmth of a family for the first time. Although she suddenly disappears, her free spirit has a lasting influence. Elisabeth and her children grow in confidence and begin to take risks, changing the trajectory of their lives.

THE CAST – Charlotte Gainsbourg, Quito Ryan Ritcher, Noée Abita, Megan Northam & Emmanuelle Béart

THE TEAM – Mikhaël Hers (Writer/Director), Maude Ameline & Mariette Désert (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 111 Minutes


Recently a talking point surfaced online after a Steven Soderberg interview while he was promoting his new series. The discussion centered around how many well-regarded filmmakers aren’t particularly interested in making films in the present anymore. They’re so obsessed with telling stories from the past. Modern storytelling is “crippled” by the surroundings and technology we have developed over time. This sentiment isn’t an entirely incorrect statement. While plenty of filmmakers tell stories of the present, legends like Scorsese, Speilberg, and Paul Thomas Anderson tend to steer their films toward the past. Just to clarify, this isn’t a bad thing whatsoever. It could just be a subject the filmmaker is interested in or a period that is meaningful to them. There’s something oddly comforting about films that yearn for a time to return to. Mikhaël Hers’s” The Passengers Of Night” (Les Passagers de la nuit) takes a step back to a formative time of his youth. What could have been an overly nostalgic trip down memory lane is instead a poignant tale of discovering one’s self through a turbulent period of change.

“The Passengers of Night” follows Elisabeth Davies (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg), a mother of two who was abruptly divorced and is adapting to this new phase of her life. Elisabeth can’t afford rent, her children are growing out of her life, and she is desperate for a break. Unlike the growing optimism in France after the 1981 Presidential election (when the film takes place), things are disheartening for Elisabeth. She ends up stumbling into a job at a radio station and begins to learn about who she wants to become. At the radio station, Elisabeth crosses paths with Talulah (played by Noée Abita), a troubled teenager who forever alters the path of the Davies family. From there, the film plays out in a manner that takes audiences along on an unhurried journey as we see life develop in front of our very eyes. Gainsbourg is sensational in this film. She brings an innate sensitivity to the role of Elisabeth, making her an incredibly sympathetic character. She’s an individual trying to find her purpose. Elisabeth is struggling to restart her life when it already feels too late, and that fear is all-consuming. Gainsbourg could’ve easily given an overbearingly loud performance, but her dedication to being a more gentle and reserved presence works perfectly with the material given to her. Quito Ryon-Ritcher also gives a pretty good performance as Elisabeth’s son Mathias. Just as Elisabeth is going through a period of change, so is he. Mathias is experiencing the struggle of discovering who he is and the eventual desire to establish his independence. Also, Mathias’s relationship with Talulah is one of the larger focuses of the film. Abita is terrific as Talulah, bringing trepidatious energy to the character. Talulah is someone who requires change (for entirely different reasons). There’s a sincerity not only with the character but the film itself, making audiences care for this family’s journey of progress.

“The Passengers of Night” could be perceived as lacking a narrative, but that isn’t really what Hers is going for. The plot is simplistic, and the pacing is leisurely, yet it delivers where it needs to. Hers’ willingness to let the film’s setting and emotion sweep the audience is the powering force that drives the film. It’s essentially a time capsule to a period Hers holds with relative fondness. Sébastien Buchmann’s cinematography is exceptionally delectable. France is captured with such regard, and it is felt with every frame. An exuberance of warmth surrounds “The Passengers of Night,” and it’s felt throughout every technical aspect of the film. A special shout-out should go to the film’s production design because the Davies family apartment is probably one of the most appealing apartments ever captured on film.

The only major fault of “The Passengers of Night” arises in the underutilization of certain supporting characters. Elisabeth’s daughter Judith (played by Megan Northam) is absent for the majority of the film. The film prioritizes Mathias’s story along with Talulahs. Towards the film’s end, Judith is practically out of the house and has already become her individual. It would have been to see the contrast of Judith compared to the rest of her family. The counterbalance of someone as assured as Judith juxtaposed with her emotionally misguided mother and brother would’ve been very interesting.

“The Passengers of Night” proves why stories of one’s past can be compelling and moving. Sure, through the eyes of a cynic, the film could be perceived as overtly sentimental. Although the film isn’t, is there anything wrong with that? Hers pulls something beautiful from a period that’s incredibly meaningful to him. Audiences should be glad Hers’ adamance took us back to this period because it resulted in one of his more emotionally stirring films. With how stunningly this film captures 1980s France, why would you ever want to leave?

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Charlotte Gainsbourg and the rest of the ensemble give moving performances that engross audiences. The film's cinematography is stunning, transporting audiences back to 1980's France. Hers' direction is incredibly lived in, making for a time capsule you'd never want to leave.

THE BAD - Although the film's story is poignant, it takes a backseat to the film's overall vibe. This will have some viewers struggling to engage with the material as the pacing is incredibly leisurely. Certain characters are pushed to the side that should've been implemented more into the film's core story.

THE OSCARS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

Subscribe to Our Newsletter!

Giovanni Lago
Giovanni Lago
Devoted believer in all things cinema and television. Awards Season obsessive and aspiring filmmaker.

Related Articles

Stay Connected

98,860FollowersFollow
98,860FollowersFollow
7,305FansLike
7,305FansLike
4,490FollowersFollow
4,490FollowersFollow

Latest Reviews

<b>THE GOOD - </b>Charlotte Gainsbourg and the rest of the ensemble give moving performances that engross audiences. The film's cinematography is stunning, transporting audiences back to 1980's France. Hers' direction is incredibly lived in, making for a time capsule you'd never want to leave.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Although the film's story is poignant, it takes a backseat to the film's overall vibe. This will have some viewers struggling to engage with the material as the pacing is incredibly leisurely. Certain characters are pushed to the side that should've been implemented more into the film's core story.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"THE PASSENGERS OF NIGHT"