A Canon camera and a silver wedding band — the coexistence of these two objects is the principal challenge in the life of decorated war photographer Rebecca (Juliette Binoche). In the largely wordless opening sequence of Erik Poppe’s 1,000 Times Good Night — a routine if occasionally affecting melodrama inspired by the director’s experiences as a photojournalist — Rebecca photographs a young suicide bomber entering a crowded square in Kabul.
The ensuing explosion leaves Rebecca with charred skin and a bloody face; upon her return to her home in Ireland, the near-death circumstances lead to a familiar family-versus-career argument with her marine-biologist husband, Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Poppe depicts Rebecca’s psychological shock in fairly rote terms: pensive showers and nightmarish recollections, both in traumatized slow motion.
Binoche, an undoubtedly great actress working here in English, sells Rebecca’s maternal regret. But when someone says, “You do it for the excitement and the danger. And that’s why you’re great,” it’s clear that Poppe is trying to paint Rebecca as addicted to the visceral risk of her job (shades of The Hurt Locker). That’s something Binoche never quite convinces us of, no matter how hard Poppe’s contrived narrative — with its blatantly ill-advised trip to Kenya by Rebecca and her oldest daughter (strong newcomer Lauryn Canny) — tries.
Poppe’s closeness to the material ensures a level of passion, but he still fails to create a truly specific dynamic for Rebecca and Marcus’s family, settling instead for a catch-all representation of the difficulties of maintaining a healthy home life while working in a dangerous profession.