BNFF Review: '2 Nights Till Morning'

2 Nights Till Morning
(Finland/Lithuania. 84 min.)
Written and directed by Mikko Kuparinen
Starring: Marie-Josée Croze, Mikko Nousianinen
Photo courtesy of the Canadian Film Institute.

Canada’s Marie-Josée Croze gives a captivating performance in 2 Nights Till Morning. As Caroline, the complicated workaholic who has a layover with destiny in this seductive Finnish-Lithuanian co-pro, the actress delivers her best work since her Genie Award and Cannes prize-winning performance in Oscar winner The Barbarian Invasions. Croze finds a strong screen partner in Mikko Nousianinen as Caroline flirts with the idea of making a connection with his Finnish DJ Jaakko when they meet at a hotel bar in Vilnius, Lithuania. In the vein of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Danièle Thompson’s Jet Lag, this talky and mature two-hander offers a whirlwind romance for mature audiences. It’s a wonderful, refreshing film driven by a pair of excellent performances.

The premise is simple, but sincere. The pair meets and has a lot of fun over drinks. Caroline, not wanting to commit, pretends she doesn’t speak a word of English. Jaakko humorously falls for the ruse, but the pair needs few words to convey what develops between them. The lack of a common language, however, foreshadows their affair.

Cut to the next morning and a one-night stand evolves into a longer trip as Caroline encounters a flight delay as all planes are grounded. Inspired by the 2010 eruptions at Eyjafjallajökull, ash clouds from Iceland halt travellers everywhere and cause havoc with trips and hotel rooms. Jaakko, ever the gentleman (and opportunist), invites Caroline to extend her stay in his room. Hesitantly, cautiously, Caroline accepts.

2 Days Till Morning gives the could-be-lovers two nights in a foreign city to get to know one another and explore the potential for true love. As the pair chats in English (Jaakko quickly discovers Caroline’s charade), they learn that differences greater than language could ultimately divide them. All the while, each one has an impending flight out of Lithuania as soon as the ash cloud clears, so the fear of making connections is strong on either end.

The film effortlessly takes the characters through a passionate courtship that teaches both Caroline and Jaakko the art of communication. Distracted and divided by technology, especially Caroline, who always has some sort of screen before her eyes, the two lovers find themselves in a kind of stopover as ash cripples the airwaves and a lack of Wi-Fi forces person-to-person communication. The pleasure of an unmediated relationship intensifies the urgency they feel to explore this connection. The film relishes the passion of living in the moment and away from the screens as the pair’s strongest and sharpest moments happen away from contemporary communication devices. Words hurt and heal more than an email or text ever could. The film resonates with its association of setting, character, and themes, as time and technology put the lovers in an existential limbo as they re-evaluate their lives and consider new travel plans.

Writer/director Mikko Kuparinen, who scooped the Best Director award for this film at last year’s Montreal World Film Festival, lets the drama unfold in a personal exchange of fluid, natural, and engaging conversations as Caroline and Jaakko discover each other through carefully composed revelations. The film’s use of space and composition allows the actors’ eyes to say even more as glances and eye-line matches reveal how much these guarded characters wish to say. Handsome cinematography by Tuomo Virtanen is warm and intoxicatingly romantic, while a contemporary Euro-pop soundtrack creates a dreamy atmosphere of youth and discovery.

The real seduction, however, comes through the pair of natural performances by Croze and Nousianinen. The actors create complex, complicated characters who feel invigoratingly authentic with their insecurities and desires. Croze tackles an especially challenging part as Caroline waffles between a life of comfort and convenience and one that promises risks and rewards. The actors smoothly handle this dialogue-driven film as 2 Nights Till Morning invites the lovers to wander and explore foreign terrain. Just as much as words and communication play a central role in the film, silence says even more as Kuparinen lets interludes of wordless desire envelope Caroline and Jaakko in their mutual longing. The attraction is palpable, intimate, and as revitalising as a new love.

2 Nights Till Morning screens at the Canadian Film Institute’s Bright Nights: The Baltic-Nordic Film Festival on Friday, Feb. 19 at the River Building Theatre, Carleton University.

Please visit www.cfi-icf.ca for more information.