Review: LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT Shows The Value Of Film As Art

long day's journey into night street
Jue Huang in a scene from Long Day's Journey Into Night. Photo by Bai Linghai, courtesy Kino Lorber.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a new Chinese film written and directed by Bi Gan. The movie tells the story of a man who, revisiting a town from his past, searches for a long lost love and remembers the time he spent with her. It has played at festivals including the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.

This film is less focused on telling a story, or even building a meaning, than creating a particular feeling. This is one of the more accessible avant garde movies you will find, but it is extremely avant garde nonetheless. There is a lot of subtlety and nuance in the emotion of the film that is what makes it so complex and thought-provoking. Although there isn’t much to look for deeper in terms of story or theme, the movie demands a second viewing because of its emotional complexity and the fact that watching it again from a different perspective may allow you to feel a different way.

The film’s use of characterization is also quite interesting. The main character, Luo Hongwu, basically serves as the lens through which the audience is supposed to view the events. The movie works best when you approach it in this way. If you can attempt to place yourself into the protagonist’s mindset, you will be able to see and understand more clearly the emotional journey upon which he has embarked. All of the supporting characters seem to represent a part of the protagonist’s psyche, further reinforcing the film’s emotional arc.

Additionally, the ways in which the movie plays with the perception of reality is very interesting. The whole film has a surreal and dreamlike feel to it, but this is particularly the case during the second half of the movie. This overall feeling to the film helps elevate it to the intended metaphysical level. While watching the movie, you will feel like you have left our world and went into a different, more unusual world.

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Yongzhong Chen in a scene from Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Photo by Liu Hongyu, courtesy Kino Lorber.

The actors in the film do a good job in their roles. Jue Huang is solid as the protagonist. Obviously, since the movie is centered around emotion, much of the film falls on his shoulders and his ability to deliver that emotional range. He is able to carry the movie, his performance giving the film a much-needed feeling of groundedness. Since the movie is so focused on him, few of the supporting actors are truly given a chance to shine, but they complement him well nonetheless.

It is on a technical level that the film is most impressive. The movie is absolutely beautiful in ways that you will not even see in most American art films. There is an ambitious and poetic quality to the movie that makes it really stand out from much of the rest of what you will see today. This type of movie is what makes you realize that the art of cinema is dynamic and very much alive.

Perhaps the film’s biggest draw, and the reason why it has gotten so much attention, is that the last 59 minutes of the movie is comprised of a single tracking shot (presented in 3D when shown in capable theaters). Although it wasn’t possible for POPAXIOM to see it in a theatrical setting, it is highly recommended to do so if you at all have the ability to. This may not be a big-budget theatrical spectacle, but it still deserves to be seen on the big screen regardless.

Overall, Long Day’s Journey Into Night was a challenging and impressive film. In no way is it meant for everyone, but if you are a fan of beautiful, slow, and contemplative dramas, this is one you will want to be sure to check out.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night is now playing in select theaters.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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