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Review: Long Day's Journey into Night

Updated: Apr 14, 2019

Ventured out to Metrograph to catch a screening of Long Day’s Journey into Night. The initial setup of this Chinese cinematic tone poem makes it resemble a typical film noir: a hardboiled amateur detective attempts to rescue a damsel in distress from her abusive boyfriend, only to discover that she’s actually a shrewd, manipulative femme fatale. It quickly becomes obvious, however, that writer-director Bi Gan is far less interested in following a traditional narrative structure than he is in exploring the deeper nature of memory, dreams, and transience. The nonlinear editing and gravity-defying camerawork create a suitably surreal atmosphere, bending time and space into impossible, disorienting shapes. Even the overabundance of voiceover narration—usually a major storytelling crutch—is thematically appropriate: because we never directly witness many of the events that our hero describes, we’re left to wonder whether or not they truly occurred at all (especially when he outright admits that several of his recollections may have been mere hallucinations). And while the disjointed plot and languid pace often make it feel as though Long Day’s Journey into Night is neglecting its core themes in favor of contemplating its own navel (there are two instances of characters angrily devouring apples that recall A Ghost Story’s excruciatingly interminable “Rooney Mara eats and subsequently regurgitates an entire Goddamn pie” scene), the technically-ambitious hour-long 3D tracking shot that serves as the movie’s emotional climax deserves every ounce of the critical acclaim it's earned.

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