Nocturnal is a well made and heartfelt character study that beautifully focuses on communication, vulnerability, and, most of all, masculinity.
Miscommunication can strain any sort of relationship: nobody wants to be with or around someone who they feel doesn’t know exactly what they want. In Nathalie Biancheri’s Nocturnal, we follow a man whose inability to express his feelings in any given situation is at the forefront of all of his problems. When we first meet lonesome painter Pete (Cosmo Jarvis), it is extremely evident that his emotional immaturity keeps him from knowing what to say. We open on a scene where his girlfriend is visiting him, and the scene ends with her being extremely frustrated because she asks Pete what exactly he likes about their relationship, to which he has no real response. It’s not that he doesn’t care about her, he just doesn’t exactly how to convey his emotions towards her.
The next day, he finds himself drawn to a teenage girl who he first sees in a shop, and watches as she and her mother go to their car and leave. The girl, Laurie (Lauren Coe), is a runner who happens to enjoy training at night. Pete uses her nighttime getaways as a way to try and communicate with her, catching her on the track and attempting to make conversation with her. She is rightfully wary at first, but after a few more attempts over the span of a couple of nights, she agrees to hang out with him. A relationship develops between the two, but it’s something that can’t exactly be explained. It’s brimming with a sort of innocence, but also longing, that neither of these characters can truly define.
As Pete and Laurie’s relationship slowly develops, we watch it become extremely evident that Pete’s childish way of dealing with what he feels creates a barricade between him and everyone he manages to connect with. Why is he unable to just say exactly what he’s thinking? Does he think that expressing these things makes him a lesser man? We watch as his many failed attempts at communication leave him in a state of pure anguish, and how he almost immediately regrets what he said (or what he refused to). We don’t see his face all that much, especially in the beginning: we almost exclusively view him from the back of his head, or only see half of his face. It feels almost as if he is embarrassed, even for an audience that he doesn’t know exists, to see him in such an unguarded state.
The writing in Nocturnal sometimes goes to lengths that don’t really feel all that believable, given the characters and how they acted previously, but, in the end, it doesn’t completely ruin the otherwise engrossing experience. Jarvis does a wonderful job at portraying a man who is so vulnerable and pained and refuses to acknowledge it, and Coe does an equally amazing job as his angsty counterpart, who is trying to figure out just who this man is, what exactly he wants from her. The way that they work off of each other makes for an emotional ride, with pay-off that is most certainly felt.
On a technical level, Nocturnal is also very solid. It is quite a beautiful film to look at. The 4:3 aspect ratio helps viewers feel trapped much like the characters as they fight for the some room to breathe, to figure things out. It’s artfully shot in a way that doesn’t feel indulgent in the slightest. Instead, something extremely intimate is created. Each scene almost feels like an invasion of privacy on these characters, paired with some extremely naturalistic (and even awkward, at points) dialogue.
Biancheri is one to look out for, and Nocturnal does everything to cement that. This sympathetic and gorgeous character study boasts her strength in storytelling and creating characters and relationships that viewers can invest themselves in. It’s safe to say that this film leaves high hopes for any future projects.
Nocturnal will be released on Friday 18th September in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema.