Five Nights in Maine screened at the 2016 Sarasota Film Festival on Day Four. Written and directed by Maris Curran, this is a true ‘indie’ as Maris received a large amount of funding via Kickstarter.
Described as an intimate film about love, loss, and compassion – the film stars David Oyelowo as a young African-American man (Sherwin) who is reeling from the tragic loss of his wife. He travels to rural Maine to seek answers from his estranged mother-in-law (Lucinda), who is herself confronting guilt and grief over her daughter’s death.
Lucinda is played by the always marvelous dramatic veteran Dianne Wiest.
The film is mostly a two-hander with Oyelowo and Wiest dueling verbally and emotionally throughout. Rosie Perez plays Ann, Lucinda’s nurse/companion/care-giver. Rosie is also the film’s emotionally steady rock at the core of the film.
As Maris Curran told us in the Q & A after the film screened, she brought the characters to us with out much in the way of backstories. The effect of this is that both Oyelowo’s Sherwin and Wiest’s Lucinda had to develop as the film progressed and eventually some slight backstories seeped into our thoughts. Now when you compound the heavy use of closeups, focusing on people that we don’t really know much about, I think it creates a distancing between the viewer and the character. Almost as if we have a great and urgent need to comfort them, but we cannot, as we don’t know them.
Oyelowo’s performance was the more nuanced and steely of the two leads.
More often than not we had to see his pain through his expressions, or grimaces, or the controlled anger that he had to deal with. As if losing his wife wasn’t already a huge problem, now he was faced with Wiest who was both frightening, chilling, and at the same time, desperately in need of care and affection.
In her own words, she said she shut off life, at least life as we know it and want it to be, after her own husband died.
Then she said, I hope this doesn’t happen to you.
Wiest’s role was really a challenge for the actress. She had to leave everything that was good within her elsewhere to bring forth this harriden of a mother-in-law. Suffering from an unnamed cancer, Wiest glowered and exhibited withering looks with a force of will that likely could bend steel, but couldn’t really penetrate Oyelowo’s grief.