Back to “finding oneself”—Fran stumbles across a diverse group of townsfolk in various states of self-actualization (think Northern Exposure). Her boss, Nils, was panned by critics similarly to Fran as “lazy, cold, not working.” She struggles with Nils’ demanding obsession over the paint-by-numbers approach he’s taking to the project.
Next to the barn is a Viking Museum, where Fran meets a U.S. ex-pat (Zach Galifianakis) dressed/cosplaying/LARPing as a Viking. By day he works at the museum, and by night he makes violent Viking movies with his friends.
Lastly, there’s Yasha (Alex Sharp). He reluctantly arrives in northern Norway to give his recently deceased father a Viking funeral…per his dying wish. Fran recognizes him as the son of a baker in New York. Yasha himself is lost as his father was everything to him, and the arrival of his long-estranged mother (Gillian Anderson) doesn’t help in the slightest.
“…plays out in slow but subtle ways (insert glacier joke here).”
What I loved about The Sunlit Night is exactly what may turn off most audiences. The story plays out in slow but subtle ways (insert glacier joke here). Fran’s character arc is not a steep one, but a real one nonetheless. The dramatic energy is low as the small Norwegian town. While we want high energy and high drama, we’re given small peaceful moments instead, which I’ll argue is the film’s charm. Also, the comedy is so biting and subversive—it’s my favorite kind.
Jenny Slate shows off her dramatic chops as Frances. Her performance is marvelous, restrained, and she has a deep understanding of what’s required of her character. Another oddly, fascinating performance comes from Zach Galifianakis, because on paper, he should have played the Viking LARPer as we’d expect him to. Yes, there are occasional Zach moments, but he understands that his role has to remain grounded to work. There’s also not enough of David Paymer but is brilliant as Fran’s father. He has one of the most amazing passive-aggressive moments in movie history.
The Sunlit Night is a celebration of the little things and the little moments of life. Its subtlety is the star because our lives are subtle and like joy, sometimes you have to look for it to find it, even though its staring you right in the face. Somehow we’ve managed to overcomplicate our journey of self-discovery.
"…could be a color wheel in a hotel lobby."