Xavier Dolan has grown quite the cult following in the cinephile community for his unique brand of arthouse cinema focused heavily on the human aspect. His first television series as a director, The Night Logan Woke Up, shares many of his trademarks, but the first two episodes aren’t enough to fully tell if it delivers.
The series follows a family whose dark past traumas resurface after the family reconvenes following the death of their matriarch. Based on Michel Marc Bouchard’s play La nuit où Laurier Gaudreault s'est réveillé, this plays like a small-town mystery not too dissimilar from something like Mare of Easttown, giving it significant breakout potential.
Dolan tells the story in a nonlinear way, cutting between the present day and the past, and this is the foundation of what makes the show “mysterious.” Although the structure is a bit cheap in how it withholds information from the viewer, the thing that keeps this from feeling gimmicky is that it’s a strong story even if it were told in a more straightforward manner.
That being said, the show lacks a consistent tone. For the most part, the series is dark and gritty, but other parts almost feel like it’s trying to be a dark comedy. Perhaps the show will be able to find its identity more clearly in the remaining three episodes as more of the mystery unfolds.
Like much of Dolan’s work, the part of this show that is most intriguing is the character work. Dolan knows how to take these characters that are somewhat off-kilter and make their drama and relationships feel entirely grounded and realistic. The first two episodes plant the seeds for the remaining three episodes to run with it.
The acting in the series is also strong, but that's no surprise considering that Dolan is considered an actor’s director. Julie LeBreton’s performance is admirably weird, serving as perfect foil to the performances of the actors that play her siblings: Patrick Hivon, Éric Bruneau, and Xavier Dolan.
Of course, the production values of the show are extremely strong. The score, by David Fleming and Hans Zimmer, is among the best music that you’ll find in any project on film or television this year. And the atmosphere that Dolan is able to build keeps the suspense high even when the plot is not firing on all cylinders.
The Night Logan Woke Up shows a ton of potential, but it will need to pick up the steam quickly to resolve the story in only three more hours. Although it’s not among Dolan’s strongest work, it has many of his trademarks that make it compelling.
The Night Logan Woke Up is playing at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, which runs January 19-29 in-person in Park City, UT and January 24-29 online. Two out of five episodes reviewed.