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Night Comes On Review: A gorgeous study in loss and sisterhood

This weekend you can see the new release Night Comes On on demand.  The directorial debut of actress/writer/director Jordana Spiro (of the show Ozarks) is co-written by The Shade Room’s  Angelica Nwandu partly based on the experiences of Nwandu’s childhood. It would never had come to fruition without the Sundance Institute’s Directors Lab and other grants, showing once again the importance of supporting women in film working in the indie space.

The story centers on Angel LaMere (Dominique Fishback), who is released from juvenile detention just before her 18th birthday.  Angel’s life hasn’t been easy. She’s been the victim of sexual and domestic violence.  She and her 10 year old sister Abigail (Tatum Marylin Hall) have been raised in a life of poverty, and when Angel gets out, Abigail is in foster care.  Their father is responsible for the death of their mother, and Angel wants to exact revenge.

She embarks on a journey with her 10-year-old sister Abigail (Tatum Marylin Hall) that may lead to a disastrous, life-ruining act of revenge, or to self-discovery and redemption, acceptance of loss, and the embrace of comfort.  It’s a coming-of-age story reminiscent of Moonlight, even going so far as to represent the queerness of the lead character, and her struggle with a disintegrating love relationship.

There is an authenticity of feeling, and a sweetness between sisters that will create an impact lasting far beyond the film’s running time.  Whether audiences personally identify with the struggles these girls endure matters less than the fact that almost everyone can relate to a depth of love and feeling between family members, either chosen or biogical, as well as the need to identify and accept the difference between who we are and who we want to become, at any age.

Dominique Fishback is hot as blazes right now, with this film being so critically acclaimed but also as a co-star in the soon-to-be released highly publicized drama The Hate You Give.  She ably carries the film, showing sensitivity, ferocity, and nuance that will hold her in good stead regardless of the character she portrays.  Moreover, it is essential to making the audience so connected to Angel, her relationships, and her journey. There is a pervasive sense of both melancholy and hope to the film, and to both Fishback and newcomer Hall’s performances, and the suffering and loss their characters have in common, though expressed differently, is always at the root of their connection. Together, they create a story that is haunting, and gorgeous.  They leave an indelible stamp in the memories of all who watch their scenes together.

With Night Comes On, we are reminded that films with strong female characters, especially women of color, interacting with other women in a multidimensional way, are few and far between.  Also those who care about supporting women in film should note that there is a strong diversity of intersectional representation in not only the cast, but also the crew of the film.

In a summer of explosive blockbusters, there is a welcome modesty to Night Comes On.  It isn’t bluster, but truthful characterization that is at the foundation of this beautifully constructed, intimate story.  That suggests the sort of considered touch by new director Spiro that portents a great future for her behind the camera.  Here’s hoping both she and co-screenwriter Nwandu get a chance to prove themselves again soon.

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