Cunard British Film Festival: That Good Night

john hurt in that good night

Despite its short-comings, That Good Night is a vehicle for John Hurt’s final, bravura performance.

John Hurt‘s final movie performance is a great choice to be part of this festival of British film.
Based on the stage-play by television writer N. J. Crisp, and originally written for Donald Sinden, (whose son Marc Sinden is one of the producers), this is a fairly standard story: curmudgeonly old man makes peace with his family before dying.

The script, adapted by Charles Savage, is uninspiring: it is really a one-horse show, with supporting actors being not much more than warm props. However, Hurt, as always, gives a bravura performance as Ralph, bringing depth and subtlety to thin material. Sofia Helin as wife Anna, Max Brown as son Michael and Erin Richards as daughter-in-law Cassie, all do their best with the little that is given to them. Charles Dance makes an interesting appearance as The Visitor: a member of an assisted suicide group, who may or may not be a figment of Ralph’s imagination. His is a strong presence, but it is still not enough to save the entire premise from being corny and predictable.

The Algarve setting is beautifully shot by cinematographer Richard Stoddard, and director Eric Styles also puts in a valiant effort to make this into something more than another stage-play on screen. He allows Hurt and Helin to take their time, and to develop a screen chemistry which helps lift  the work from the tedious to at least the mildly interesting.

Despite its shortcomings, this is still an enjoyable and oddly engaging  piece of cinema. Hurt was one of the greats of contemporary acting, with an awe-inspiring breadth to his work. And although disappointing,  it is still a solid vehicle in which he could “rage against the dying of the light”.

That Good Night screens Saturday 28th October, Wednesday 1st November and Sunday 5th November at Palace Nova Cinema.
Check out the official site here.

Book tickets here.

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