“Parenthood brings out the best and worst in people” the cankerous Lucinda (Diane Wiest) tells Sherwin (David Oyelowo), the son-in-law she hardly knows. What she neglects to mention is that grief does as well. However, this is something that both Lucinda and Sherwin must find out for themselves. Unfortunately, the journey to such a discovery is often a painful and uncomfortable one.
After the surprising death of his wife Fiona (Hani Furstenberg), who was involved in a vehicular accident, a grieving Sherwin agrees to take Lucinda up on her offer for him to get out of town and visit her for a few days in Maine. Never expecting him to actually show up, Lucinda, who is dying from cancer and requires the daily assistance of a nurse named Ann (Rosie Perez), is immediately suspicious of Sherwin’s motives. Having only seeing her estranged daughter for the first time in years recently, a few months before the accident, Lucinda cannot help but think that Sherwin might be covering up something. Of course Lucinda is no angel herself. Her relationship with Fiona was strenuous at best. Two strong-minded women, Lucinda’s constant bullying and disapproval of her daughter’s choices, including marrying a black man, put a huge wedge between the women that never was resolved.
Believing that the other played a small role in whatever unhappiness Fiona was experiencing prior to her death, Lucinda and Sherwin find it difficult to co-exist in Lucinda’s rural household. However, as tempers flare and secrets come out, both individuals are forced to come to terms with the emotional pain they have been bottling up inside.
Exploring the difficult and complex elements that come with the death of a loved one, Maris Curran’s Five Nights in Maine bravely swims in a lake of raw emotions. One of the memorable things about Curran’s direction is her ability to let the mood linger. Her measured pacing allows the character’s grief to drive the narrative forward. Sherwin and Lucinda have lost the knot that once unified their two ropes. Now they are force to figure out how, and more important if they want to, unite those same threads again.
Curran strips her characters emotionally bare to emphasize not only the unpredictable nature of life, but also the importance of the connections, whether good or bad, that one makes with those who enter their lives. While Lucinda and Sherwin may argue who deserves to wallow more, the grieving mother or the grieving husband, the fact does not change that they have both lost someone who impacted their individual lives greatly.
Showing a gift for character-driven story telling, Maris Curran’s debut marks the arrival of an artist who will be commanding the audience’s attention with each new project. Curran’s direction extracts some strong performances from her talented cast. David Oyelowo does a great job in his portrayal of the wry Sherwin, a man who cannot seem to find his way out of a grief filled fog. His scenes with Diane Wiest, who is equally strong as the controlling matriarch, crackle with the level of awkwardness and emotion one would expect from a situation such as they are in. Intimate, moving, and honest, Five Nights in Maine is a film that is not afraid to dig deep into the pool of emotions that make makes life both rich and complex.
Saturday, September 19, 9:30 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Ticket information can be found at the TIFF website.