Parents' Guide to

The Sunlit Night

By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Enchanting find-yourself dramedy has sex, nudity, cursing.

Movie NR 2020 106 minutes
The Sunlit Night Poster Image

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Slate charms in this film, which reinvents romance for the modern era. Rebecca Dinerstein Knight adapted the screenplay from her own novel, which was inspired by her own real-life experiences, and it picks up on the evolving trend that the real love in our life needs to be ourselves. Frances is stuck in a box made up of New York's tiny apartments, the pressure to find the right kind of Jewish boy to marry, and the expectations of her graduate art studies professors. When she moves into her father's art studio -- literally a room filled with art supplies and a blow-up mattress she has to share with her dad -- it's clear she needs to escape. To anywhere. So she takes the only remaining summer art residency, which is available because no one else wants to venture to its remote Norwegian location near the Arctic Circle. Frances heads out with a positive attitude, which she maintains despite the reality of her situation: doing someone else's paint by numbers on a barn for 12 hours a day. But those long hours and the incredible scenery allow her time to think, to ruminate, to evolve, and to find herself. There's a love interest along the way, but she's not crushing on him as much as intrigued by him, which Slate demonstrates with long, absorbing stares rather than quick stolen glances. There's so much to love about Frances: She's respectful and hardworking, but she also advocates for herself and stands up when authority steps out of line.

And then there's He Who Must Be Mentioned: Zach Galifinakis shines in a supporting turn as the Viking Next Door. Frances lives and works near a Viking museum, whose beaded-beard "Chief" happens to be a Cincinnati ex-pat. Galifinakis' character is eccentric, and we may laugh at him, but he's not a cartoon. He's happy: He's found his place in the world. And amid the gorgeousness that is Norway, Frances similarly finds herself and her creative perspective. The Sunlit Night offers plenty of subtleties to admire: the texture of a baby goat's hair that we can almost feel through the screen, the vibrant red and white that always cloaks Frances, and the inclusion of the tiny swipes of deprecation that many women experience daily. It's a quiet film, but the humor and relatability of Slate's character as she experiences the pangs of getting out from under the weight of her family should make it appealing to teens. As emerging adults linger longer at home, the film appreciates that sometimes we need to get away from the ones we love to love ourselves.

Movie Details

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