Review by Sean Boelman
Through the Night is a new documentary that has a lot more on its mind than it seems at first glance. With a unique story with some interesting and important implications, director Loira Limbal’s film makes an efficient and impactful statement on these timely topics.
The movie tells the story of a woman who runs an overnight daycare center, providing care for the children of low-income parents who work multiple jobs to provide for their families. And while it seems at first that this is a very specific human interest story, it offers some deeper commentary on the class system in the modern United States.
Clocking in at a mere seventy-two minutes long, the film breezes by extremely quickly. Part of what makes the movie work so well is that its story is fascinating; however, unlike most other documentaries that are as brief as this, it feels like it addresses all of its themes in a fully-developed and substantial way.
The film digs into the troubles of the working class. Even though the movie is more about the person who runs the daycare, there are some really interesting things in the film about her clients. Admittedly, with such a short runtime, it almost would have been beneficial had the movie taken the time to develop these parents on an individual level.
That said, the film does a very good job of making its subjects extremely compelling and sympathetic. There is understandably a great deal of praise going to the subject for her hard work, and she is deserving of it, but thankfully, the movie doesn’t get entirely caught up in this, not pulling any punches in regards to the tougher material.
There are some moments, particularly in the last half of the film, that lean a bit too heavily into sentimentality. Yet despite these brief portions that feel contrived, there’s a lot here that is affecting and emotional. At times, this is a heartbreaking story about how a broken system presents a significant obstacle for lower-income families.
On a technical level, the movie is certainly very accomplished. Limbal brings a safe but effective fly-on-the-wall method to the film, giving it a very honest and heartfelt feel. There are some really great shots throughout, but a majority of the movie is spent making the viewer feel like they are close to this world, and it works very well.
Loira Limbal’s Through the Night manages to tell an interesting and meaningful story despite a few issues in its narrative. Thanks to some really strong moments throughout, it’s an emotional watch.
Through the Night was set to debut at the cancelled 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. It is currently seeking distribution.
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