By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader
“Night Comes On” is the powerful directorial debut from actress Jordana Spiro (Netflix’s Ozark), which had its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the NEXT Innovator Award. The film is co-written by Angelica Nwandu, who is the founder of The Shade Room, and features breakthrough performances by two fast-rising stars, Dominique Fishback (HBO’s “The Deuce”) and newcomer Tatum Marilyn Hall.
Jordana Spiro’s heartfelt and nuanced debut feature concerns Angel (Fishback), just out of juvenile detention, and her sister, Abby, currently in a foster home. Angel is determined to confront her father about their past, while her sibling needs her to stay out of trouble so they can build on their bond.
Both newcomers give authentic and grounded performances, intimately capturing the close bond of sisterhood as they desperately try to remain a family amid their complex circumstances. But Angel, strong-willed and resourceful, has a quick-fix plan: find Abby, get a gun, hunt down her father, and hit the reset button on her and her sister’s lives.
Filmmaker Spiro and co-writer Nwandu paint a tough but intimate portrait of sisterhood amid a hostile landscape where kids and young adults, desperate for guidance, are instead forced to fend for themselves. Naturalistic dialogue and restrained but deeply felt dynamics between the two sisters breathe humor and warmth into scenes otherwise loaded with tension. “Night Comes On” is a raw and lyrical coming-of-age tale and a testament to Spiro’s gifts as a nuanced and empathetic storyteller on the rise.
I simply adored the simplicity and love shown in this movie between the two sisters. Even though Angel had been away for a couple of years, Abby yearned for her return, because she had been cooped up in a foster home, where there certainly had been restraints and maybe some abuse. And Angel has not had it good, either. But what is certain is that both sisters are victims of abject poverty.
Although Angel didn’t have much to offer her younger sister and she was forbidden to even make contact with her, she reached out to her to just make sure that she was getting along. It seemed that they held in whatever grief they felt about their mother’s death. The two travel across Philadelphia to confront their father.
What transpires are intimate moments between the two at the beach—the only place Abby wants to go. She just wants to have fun with her big sister. However, there she discovers that Angel has a gun. She is terrified both for their safety and worried about Angel being locked up again. Nevertheless, An-gel is the best big sister that she can be. She goes on to find her father on her own, but her actions once there are not what she expected. “Night Comes On” is a great film about redemption—not just for Angel but for her father, as well.
In addition to winning the NEXT Innovator Award, “Night Comes On” won the Audience Award at the 2018 Lighthouse International Film Festival. It was also the Official Selection at the 2018 Rotterdam International Film Festival, and the Official Selection at the 2018 San Francisco International Film Festival.
“Night Comes On” will screen at Facets Cinémathèque, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave., from August 10 to August 16. It is also available on VOD and DVD. For more information, visit http://www.facets.org/cinematheque/films/aug2018/night-comes-on.php.