The story begins with a married couple, Babak Naderi (Shahab Hosseini from “A Separation” and “The Salesman”) and his wife Neda (Niousha Jafarian from “Here and Now”) and their baby girl in Los Angeles. home. While this is an enjoyable evening for the most part, it’s clear that there is an unresolved tension in the marriage, especially due to Neda’s discomfort with Babak’s drinking.
On the way back, they fight in the car – mostly over whether Babak should be behind the wheel – and get lost near the city center. The GPS is broken for no apparent reason, and there are a few other vaguely dreamy signals that indicate something is wrong. Running out of gas, they decide to stay at the Hotel Normandie – one of the many plot elements of “The Night”, which doesn’t necessarily stand up to strict logical scrutiny, as the couple live just 30 minutes and taxis and carpools are there, but it’s best to just roll with the movie and not upgrade to full CinemaSins – and this is where the movie basically goes into “Discount Shining” mode, with Babak, Neda and their baby checking in and wondering if they’d ever go check it out.
Ahari and co-writer Milad Jarmooz expertly balance the Kubrickian aspects you would expect from this type of setup and a behavior-based, at times almost theatrical, component that invests all the tension of the story in the two main performances. Rooms, hallways, alleys and streetscapes that would seem perfectly mundane in real life are photographed (by Maz Makhani) and recorded (by Nima Fakhrara, channeling quasi-experimental composers like Ludwig Göransson and Brian Reitzell – in such a way as to suggesting something strange or perhaps deadly could emerge at any time, from any part of the frame.
Cinema pays special attention to negative space, what is in the center and what comes out. There is a long sequence that takes place in a tight close-up of Babak lying in a bed having a conversation with Neda, who is blurry in the background behind him, and eventually things take a strange turn, and the makes you feel like something is wrong before Babak gives the scene a touch of dark comedy that can only come from all components of filmmaking and performance running on the same wavelength. I’ve been a horror aficionado all my life, but (like “Invisible Man” last year) this movie still managed to show me a few things that I had never seen before – nothing groundbreaking. subject style terms, but subtle variations on known quantities: the cinematic equivalent of a new turn of phrase, or a word that usually means something meaning somewhat the opposite, thanks to the context in which it is used. You will know what I mean when you watch the movie.