Director: Nathalie Biancheri
Writers: Olivia Waring and Nathalie Biancheri
Starring: Cosmo Jarvis, Lauren Coe, Sadie Frost
A cynical schoolgirl named Laurie (Coe) builds and nurtures a secret friendship with Pete (Jarvis), an older man who appears to be obsessed with her.
There is undoubtedly something uniquely emotive about a British seaside town in the winter; many of our seaside towns are sadly quite grim even in the summer months, but in the winter when the wind is howling, the rain falling and the waves crashing and there are very few people about (except a few dogwalkers) these towns can provide the perfectly desolate and lonely setting for a film that means they can sometimes be a character in their own right. I must confess that I am not sure which particular town Nocturnal is filmed in (according to imdb it is just ‘Yorkshire’), but it provides the perfect setting for a film of this kind.
From a technical point of view Nocturnal is wonderfully put together; director Nathalie Biancheri gives us constant intense close-ups of the characters, meaning we see and share the internal pain and loneliness the characters are suffering, even though it does prove to be intentionally uncomfortable viewing at times. The sound design and Michal Dymek’s gloomy cinematography also emphasises the melancholy of British seaside towns in winter, and how they can serve to emphasise a character’s internal loneliness. One of the film’s standout scenes being when the two main protagonists go to a club and in one room there is a silent disco with everyone wearing headphones.
Nocturnal is a film that often keeps its cards very close to its chest, and this only adds intrigue to what is a very unconventional and at times uncomfortable narrative journey for both characters that have deep emotional scars. Unfortunately, this is all let down by a very predictable and contrived narrative that has some revelations that undermine a lot of the good work that it does. Though credit must be due to Biancheri for how she decides to conclude the final third of Nocturnal, there are a lot of individually clichéd scenes and overall narrative contrivances that just undermine a lot of the initial good work by the film in how it develops its core themes.
There is certainly no fault in the performances of the two main actors as they perfectly depict with wonderful nuance the complexities of their characters; Lauren Coe is excellent as Laurie, demonstrating both cynicism and a naive vulnerability. Meanwhile after his exceptional performance in Calm with Horses Cosmo Jarvis once again delivers an incredible performance that depicts perfectly damaged masculinity; his character is obviously very physically strong, but yet has deep emotional scars, weaknesses and vulnerability and struggles to express himself, and we can certainly relate to some of the emotions he demonstrates even if we sometimes cannot quite condone his actions.
it is just a massive shame that the two incredible leading performances are not rewarded by a script and final third of the same high standard, but Nocturnal does just have enough to be an engaging and haunting story about isolation and loneliness, it is just could have been even better.
A film littered with narrative flaws and contrivances, but thanks to two exceptional performances and a very evocative setting Nocturnal still serves as an engaging examination of loneliness, isolation and internal suffering.