Five Nights in Maine makes strictly minimalist drama out of tearjerker material. David Oyelowo gives a quietly tortured performance as Sherwin, a husband whose life is upended when, early in the film, his wife dies in a car accident. There are flashbacks of time spent with his wife, Fiona (Hani Furstenberg), but the snippets (karaoke, a possible alcohol problem, hoping to have a child) are frustratingly diffuse.
Lucinda (Dianne Wiest), Fiona’s mother, asks Sherwin to come to her home in Maine. Much of this short film (less than an hour and twenty minutes) is spent in the company of Lucinda and Sherwin as they try to communicate their grief and frustration.
Director Maris Curran relies on close-up shots that build tension but quickly begin to feel claustrophobic. That’s likely intentional, but it might be interesting to see what the story and characters would be like with more breathing room — this conceit and small cast could work just as well, if not better, as a one-act play. The two leads both bring intensity to their parts, and Wiest plays the ill, aging mother-in-law with iciness rather than simpering self-pity.
The colorblind casting is admirable — any racial tensions between mother and son-in-law are left unspoken. While Wiest and Oyelowo bear the brunt of the drama, Rosie Perez also gives a fine, low-key performance as Lucinda’s caretaker.
Five Nights in Maine may leave audiences wanting more grounding in the husband-wife/mother-daughter drama that is a constant, foggy presence, but the raw confusion and sadness associated with great loss shines through.
Five Nights in Maine
Directed by Maris Curran
Opens August 5, Village East Cinema