Synopsis: When Kath and her boyfriend arrive at a remote cabin in the redwoods, they find a mysterious younger couple already there. After her boyfriend disappears with the young woman Kath becomes obsessed with finding an explanation.
Stars: Winona Ryder, John Gallagher Jr., Owen Teague, Brianne Tju, Dermot Mulroney
Director: Eli Horowitz
Running Length: 90 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: First and foremost, let’s acknowledge that Gone in the Night (called The Cow when it premiered back in March at SXSW) welcomes back Oscar-nominated actress Winona Ryder to the kind of acting work we’ve wanted to see her in for a while. Taking on the occasional supporting film role while finding success in television through Stranger Things, her performance in Eli Horowitz’s mystery is bound to go down well with fans both past and current. It’s Ryder (Beetlejuice) at her most present best, bringing a somewhat wispy character toward a fuller existence solely through her performance. For 90 fast-moving minutes, a capable crew of filmmakers offers viewers a curious puzzle of a mystery and an enjoyable one at that.
Ryder plays Kath, a woman in her late ‘40s dating the younger Max (John Gallagher, Jr., Underwater), with whom she shares little interest. Still, she’s surprised when he vanishes on their weekend away with a woman they met on their first night at a double-booked Airbnb in the woods. The more she thinks about the slight, the more upset she gets and believes she is owed an answer. She should be careful what she asks for. Tracking down the owner of the Airbnb (Dermot Mulroney, August: Osage County) leads her down a path that reveals clues to the strange couple she met once and where her ex may have run off to…if he ever truly left in the first place.
Horowitz has fun with timelines and our perception of the situations we see, allowing Ryder and the other cast (Unhuman’s Brianne Tju is another stellar standout as one half of the creepy couple along with Montana Story‘s Owen Teague) to squirm in a series of uncomfortable scenes. Horowitz naturally shows a knack for these time hops and bringing overlapping lives together; he was one of the writers for Homecoming. Starting as a paranoid podcast, it became an Amazon series starring Julia Roberts in Season 1 and Janelle Monáe in Season 2. The show never got off the ground as much as it should, but it wasn’t for lack of intriguing set-ups. Horowitz brings that same impossible-to-resist urge to know more to Gone in the Night. Even if you figure out what’s happening or feel the final third doesn’t rise to the same heights as what comes before, Ryder’s performance keeps pulling you back in.
Back in March, I was pleased to report that Gone in The Night (a title so bland it can only aspire to be cardboard flavored), one of the films I was most interested in seeing at SXSW, wasn’t a disappointment. Though it was a different movie than I expected, it made the watch much more interesting to sit through. Now that I’ve seen it again, I feel it stands up nicely on a repeat viewing. Don’t let anyone spoil this one for you but trust me when I say that if you’re a Ryder ride or die…this will give you big-time happiness.