★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Eli Horowitz
Raising some intriguing points about aging and boasting engrossing performances from Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney, Gone in the Night loses its way when it begins ramping things up in the suspense department.
The issues of being a woman judged by her age are at the center of director Eli Horowitz’s thriller Gone in the Night — which played film festivals earlier this year under the title The Cow — as is getting older in general. The film gives it a good try but doesn’t nail the overall effort as strongly as one would hope.
Fortysomething Kath (Winona Ryder) is a botanist in a one-year relationship with younger boyfriend Max (John Gallagher Jr.), who she met when she taught a continuing education class in which he was a student. Max seems nice enough but often acts like a big kid, making the gap in their years all the more apparent. When he suggests they go to a cabin in the woods for a weekend, she agrees, only for the couple to find that their rental is double-booked by a couple close to Max’s age. For as pleasant as Kath and Max both seem to be, Greta (Brianne Tju) and Al (Owen Teague) are abrasive and confrontational. Despite this, the four try to make the best of it, playing a board game designed to spice things up for couples until Kath becomes uncomfortable and goes to bed. When she wakes up, a solemn Al tells her that Max and Greta ran away together.
At first, Kath feels that it was probably for the best and doesn’t try to contact Max. When curiosity gets the better of her, however, she enlists the help of cabin owner Barlow (Dermot Mulroney) to track down Greta and confront her to put closure on things. This, of course, sets up mystery, intrigue, and as viewers might expect in a thriller film, at least a twist or two.
The high points of Gone in the Night are the performances of Ryder, especially, and Mulroney. The two have solid chemistry as two people dealing with such problems of aging as how they are treated, illness, and loneliness. The material they are given isn’t stellar, but they both wring as much as they can out of their roles. Tju and Teague, unfortunately, are saddled with one-note characters who it is hard to get invested in at all. Tju’s Greta, in particular, seems written to be someone who you just can’t wait to see get hers.
The technical aspects of Gone in the Night are all fine, and Horowitz does an impressive job at the helm. The screenplay, which he cowrote with Matthew Derby, is the sticking point here, and when the film heads toward its third act, the proceedings tread in the realm of the illogical.
Review by Joseph Perry
Vertical Entertainment US presents Gone in the Night in theaters on July 15 and On Digital and Demand from August 2, 2022.