Paul (Joel Edgerton) is a family man. He’ll do anything for his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and 17-year-old son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). Once upon a time, that might have meant working hard as a teacher (his subject was history) in order to give them a good life. Now, though, his commitment takes on other forms – like wheeling his father into the woods and setting him on fire.
The three survivors are understandably twitchy. When a stranger (Christopher Abbott) breaks into their house in the middle of the night, therefore, they bludgeon him and tie him to a tree. They learn that his name is Will and he’s just like Paul: a desperate man looking to provide for his wife and child. After some deliberation, the two families decide to shack up together and pool their resources. Trust is a fragile thing, though – even before anyone starts feeling a bit peaky.
It Comes at Night is only the second feature from the grotesquely young Shults (b. 1988), and sometimes his inexperience shows. There are a couple of lags in characterisation and writing that a more mature director might have fixed. But the narrative tension and atmosphere is second to none; It Comes at Night has more power in one scene than Terrence Malick could muster up in the whole of Song to Song, a film on which Shults interned.
Shults’ own movie owes a debt to Joel Edgerton, who’s coming to seem like the most underrated actor of his generation. After his heartbreaking turn in Loving, Edgerton demonstrates the darker side of familial love in It Comes at Night. It’s a performance that’s tender and menacing by turns, and that fully articulates what exactly it is that comes at night.
|It Comes at Night film review
|Various Locations | MAP
|Leicester Square (underground)
07 Jul 17 – 07 Feb 19, Times Vary
|£determined by cinema
|Click here for more details