DIFF Review: Five Nights in Maine

Score: C+

Director: Maris Curran

Cast: Dianne Wiest, David Oyewelo, Rosie Perez, Hani Furstenberg

Running Time: 82 Minutes

Rated: NR

It takes time to process through grief after losing a loved one, but Five Nights in Maine wants to rush through it.

Within the first five minutes, Sherwin (David Oyewelo) has experienced an intense loss: his wife Fiona (Hani Furstenberg) has died in a car accident, and there was absolutely nothing he could have done to prevent it. His breakdown at this news feels like a punch in the gut. But his actions afterward tick all the boxes of “Sad Feelings”: he wears sweatpants, sleeps on the couch, doesn’t eat and refuses to deal with any of the funeral arrangements. A lesser actor would noticeably drift through these scenes, but Oyewelo makes you feel Sherwin’s anguish.

In an attempt to stir himself out of his depression, he reluctantly accepts an invitation from his dying mother-in-law Lucinda (Dianne Wiest) to visit. Fiona had done so just a few weeks prior, and came back in bad shape.

Suffering from cancer and losing her child have only made Lucinda more vicious and icy, though she’s occasionally kind and funny. Their sparring makes for the movies best scenes. Exposed to each other without their protective shields up, they blame each other for Fiona’s death, even though neither of them were with her when the accident happened.

It’s a similar question explored in Louder than Bombs. But where that movie drifted in all different directions, Five Nights in Maine draws a straight line to an inevitable conclusion.

After wounding each other deeply in their most brutal war of wars, Sherwin storms off into the night. There should be more after that, more time to deal with the fallout. But writer-director Maris Curran jumps ahead to a moment of catharsis the film hasn’t earned yet.

But it’s a testament to the powerful acting that this isn’t as big a deal. Oyewelo and Wiest are magnificent, elevating the material. And Curran is a great observer of small moments: Lucinda grabbing a fist of Fiona’s ashes, Sherwin holding onto a mug with Fiona’s lipstick stain. But the dialogue isn’t especially strong, and occasionally it feels like this would work much better as a play. If we had a few more nights in Maine, it could have truly earned its release.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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