Cunard British Film Festival Review: That Good Night (UK, 2017) is a dull adaption of a stage play that grapples with morality

That Good Night is a film that could be been called “The Last Night.” This is because it’s a drama about second chances and forgiveness. This handsome film is the last one that the late Sir John Hurt acted in and while it has some intriguing moments, it ultimately suffers from being a play that has been stretched out in order to be adapted for the big screen.

This film is directed by Eric Styles, is written by Charles Savage and is based on N.J. Crisp’s play. It sees Hurt playing Ralph, a once-famous screenwriter who is grappling with a terminal illness. He is not always the most likeable character and his personality is prickly at best. He once also abandoned his son. Ralph has two things that he wants to accomplish during the final chapters of his life- to reconcile with his boy and to die so that he may not be a burden on his young wife (Sofia Helin.)

The reconciliation between father and son (Max Brown) fails get off to a good start. Ralph insults his son’s partner (Erin Richards (Gotham)) for no good reason. This adds friction to a situation that was already tense. Ralph also receives a visit from a mysterious stranger (Charles Dance (Game of Thrones)) who will support Ralph’s euthanasia bid. When the latter thing fails to eventuate, Ralph is forced to reassess his life and make some big changes.

This film is beautifully shot. It uses some warm pastels but it is a big shame that the same cannot be said about Ralph’s character and personality. Hurt does a great job with his performance and with the material he is given. But it all seems like a wasted opportunity for his swansong, especially because Ralph has no redeeming qualities and he is the quintessential curmudgeon through and through.

That Good Night is not the most original story as there have been many other films and books that tackle similar subject matter. Scent Of A Woman actually had a similar premise in that you had a tough lead character with a desire to end his own life. But unlike Al Pacino’s film, That Good Night feels long and drawn out and it doesn’t offer audiences enough reasons to get behind this tough, unlikeable man. This means that what could have been a dramatic look at mortality, life and forgiveness actually ends up feeling like a rather hollow and meaningless waste.


The Cunard British Film Festival will be screening across all major Australian cities from mid October to mid November. You can find out more by heading to the official website or simply clicking here.


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