Night Moves is indie director Kelly Reichardt’s new film following Josh Stamos’ journey through the world of environmentalism, with a focus on the darker, more militant side of things. Unfortunately the film suffers from a strange feeling of amnesia, frequently drifting into moody inactivity, although unfortunately more reminiscent of an idea-rich, content-weak student film than anything by the great Antonioni; less a “cinema of possibilities” and more a cinema of downcast silence. I struggled to care much about the film’s progression or its characters, and found myself angry with the plot development, it was Chris Blauvelt’s marvellous cinematography that kept me gripped, and is perhaps the only thing worth taking away from Reichardt’s messy venture.
The film feels drifting and careless throughout, much like its main character, Josh, played by Jesse Eisenburg, leading one to ask whether it was a stylistic choice to capture the fervent naivete rampant within idealistic circles. (An experiment that’s failed if it’s indeed the case). Night Moves does deserve some credit for its imagination, with what is on paper quite an interesting undertaking, revealing a world not often brought to the cinema. But as the film develops you’ll find the character direction bland and disappointing, perhaps the fault of screenwriter Jonathan Raymond’s predictable development, although certainly hindered further by the film’s all too subtle exploration of its content.
Attention needs to be drawn to the sheer beauty of the film’s rich, autumnal visual direction, littered with sequences that would prove impressive on their own, without any constraint by plot. Night Moves is a most see for fans of visual art, capturing it’s brand of brooding gloominess perfectly.
My primary disappointment with Night Moves is the way in which the film ended, along with the poor development of main character Josh, whose quiet demeanor and disconnected attitude seem to tell of things to come, being something between the quiet, brooding type and the desperate and lonely third-wheel, stuck in this unforgiving world he’s stumbled into, lost and destitute, never materialises into anything interesting, and come the end, he can’t help stinking of cliché and stock mental illness, moves you might expect from Hollywood, but not with an independent.
Night Moves is a visceral experience, one you’ll need all of your senses on alert to get any enjoyment from. At times it seems to work, with a particular sequence ending in the explosion of a dam being some of the most compelling stuff you’ll see this year, although moments like this are a dime a dozen, with the majority of the film suffering from pointless malaise.
On the topic of environmentalism, the film stays largely quiet, content to portray environmentalists without making much of a statement on the theme itself. Whilst this is in no way a poor decision, it does mean that the plot lacks any sort of sincerity, and content often feels sparse and meaningless. There hasn’t been enough work on the characters to make their motivations at all compelling (with the ending being the perfect example), nor has there been any sort of significant statement on the subject itself to account for this lack of character intrigue.
It’s hard to recommend the film on its photography alone, so it’s probably not worth wasting your time with Night Moves. Its listless plot and tiring characters will leave you frustrated, wallowing in the film’s fatigued sense of direction.