Night Comes On (Samuel Goldwyn Films, NR)

N ight Comes On doesn’t necessarily pack as much punch as one would expect. We become acquainted with the protagonist, Angel (Dominique Fishman), as she’s being released from juvenile detention, and not much time passes before we realize she might not be out for long. Her troubled life of petty crime began when she witnessed the brutal murder of her mother by her father, and now she’s out for vengeance. But just as soon as we discover the grim reality of her circumstances and the extremity of her plans, we’ve already settled into a small-scale coming-of-age story that stands about as far from the revenge genre as a film with this premise can get.

Fishman combines impressive control with fleeting but breathtaking moments of anguish which exquisitely betray a deep vulnerability in Angel, which she tries to conceal with hard indifference. Her demeanor is stony but fierce, and silently boiling with years-old rage. Tatum Marilyn Hall , conversely, plays the younger Abby with a sense of humor and whimsy that makes no hint at her personal scars. The moments where she shows pain are just as fleeting as Angel’s, but all the more devastating when we consider the otherwise carefree and optimistic outlook she struggles to maintain so as to not let go of her childhood.While the two actresses portray characters on separate wavelengths,  they have incredible chemistry that authentically represents an interpersonal dichotomy as well as a strong sibling bond.

Actress Jordana Spiro (best known from the TBS sitcom My Boys) has made her first feature film with Night Comes On, and it lacks a certain audaciousness that many debuts lack. The direction remains mostly deft and understated throughout. As a result, the film tends to drag in places and never quite reaches the emotional heights that I craved. And yet, all things considered, Spiro succeeds in crafting an engaging, intimate melodrama with low-key but poignant messages about the troubling realities of urban communities, poverty, and the criminal justice system. And to be fair, her restraint doesn’t completely stifle her creativity, as a few sequences utilize some very powerful cinematography and use of sound, especially music. The way that Spiro shoots urban areas comes as particularly refreshing in its simplicity, refraining from painting a sensationalized picture either positively or negatively. These characters aren’t destitute slobs living in a wasteland, nor are they colorful, unconvincing urban-rainbow caricatures living perfect bohemian lives.The dangers of Angel and Abby’s surroundings have a presence and stay candid, but don’t alienate, and the positives provide levity without whitewashing.

All in all, Night Comes On is both a satisfying standalone film and a promising start for Spiro, who establishes a voice while allowing for the subtle and naturalistic performances by the two young and talented leads to receive much-deserved attention. | Nic Champion

Night Comes On is avaiable on VOD from services including YouTube and Google Play.

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