×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Night Watch

The fourth novel by popular Welsh author Sarah Waters to be adapted for U.K. broadcast, "The Night Watch" maintains its predecessors' high standard by successfully translating an even trickier narrative than usual, told in three chronologically reversed segments.

With:
With: Anna Maxwell Martin, Claire Foy, Jodie Whittaker, Anna Wilson-Jones, Harry Treadaway, JJ Field, Liam Garrigan, Claudie Blakley, Kenneth Cranham, Alex Waldmann.

The fourth novel by popular Welsh author Sarah Waters to be adapted for U.K. broadcast, “The Night Watch” maintains its predecessors’ high standard by successfully translating an even trickier narrative than usual, told in three chronologically reversed segments. Complex tale set in London during and after WWII expands Waters’ usual focus on doomed lesbian romance to encompass gay male and straight female protagonists, all swept along by tides of fate and prejudice against an already tumultous historical backdrop. Busy, satisfying if mostly downbeat drama should easily score select broadcast and VOD deals offshore.

Principal characters are introduced in 1947, as Britain rebuilds itself from the war’s devastation. Braving the disdain and insults of strangers for her mannish appearance, heiress Kay (Anna Maxwell Martin) seems to be masochistically punishing herself with social isolation after some as-yet-murky past disappointment. Helen (Claire Foy) and younger lover Julia (Anna Wilson-Jones) are finding cohabitation increasingly tense due to infidelities both past and present. Helen’s co-worker Viv (Jodie Whittaker) is carrying on a long-term affair with married Reggie (Liam Garrigan) and regularly visits her younger brother, Duncan (Harry Treadaway), who’s been estranged from their father since serving a prison sentence.

Second seg is set three years earlier, with Duncan in jail. There, he meets two men who will play a role in his future and mourns a third lost under tragic circumstances. Reggie gets paramour Viv pregnant, though with a family of his own, he’s in no position to do the right thing. A stray act of kindness ties Viv to Kay, who’s in her element as a fearless ambulance worker responding to air-raid emergencies. A love triangle involving Kay, Julia and Helen will soon cause all three grief, however.

The roots of all these relationships are finally revealed in the last full section, set in 1941. A brief back-to-the-future coda suggests our beleaguered characters may yet have a chance of moving on to hopefully better pastures.

Cramming an enormous wealth of incident into 90 minutes during which little goes right for the numerous protagonists, helmer Richard Laxton and scenarist Paula Milne (both Brit tube veterans) risk creating a monotonous dirge of miserabilism. But the propulsion of Waters’ narrative strands, an excellent cast and expert production values keep “The Night Watch” engrossing throughout. Nina Humphreys’ keening string-based score hits just the right note of urgent melancholy.

The Night Watch

U.K.

Production: A BBC production. (International sales: BBC, London.) Produced by Ann Tricklebank. Executive producer, Hilary Salmon. Directed by Richard Laxton. Screenplay, Paula Milne, based on the novel by Sarah Waters.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), David Katznelson; editor, Philip Kloss; music, Nina Humphreys; production designer, Martin Boddison; art director, Mark Hudson; costume designer, Pam Downe; sound, Chris Ashworth; assistant director, Lydia Currie; casting, Julia Crampsie, Liz Stoll. Reviewed at Frameline (World Cinema), June 17, 2011. (Also in Outfest.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With: With: Anna Maxwell Martin, Claire Foy, Jodie Whittaker, Anna Wilson-Jones, Harry Treadaway, JJ Field, Liam Garrigan, Claudie Blakley, Kenneth Cranham, Alex Waldmann.

More Film

  • Aladdin

    'Aladdin' to Soar Above Box Office Competition Over Memorial Day Weekend

    When Disney first released “Aladdin” in 1992, Bill Clinton was just settling in to the Oval Office, “Game of Thrones” wasn’t much more than a book idea percolating in the mind of author George R.R. Martin, and Johnny Carson was wrapping up his stint as “Tonight Show” host. In some ways, 2019 feels like a [...]

  • Daniel Dae Kim Hellboy

    Cannes: Daniel Dae Kim Joins Joe Penna’s Sci-Fi Thriller ‘Stowaway’

    Daniel Dae Kim, best known recently for ABC’s “The Good Doctor,” will join Anna Kendrick and Toni Collette in Joe Penna’s sci-fi thriller “Stowaway.” The movie marks the second feature from Penna and Ryan Morrison, the duo behind the Cannes Official Selection film “Arctic,” which released earlier this year. XYZ Films and CAA Media Finance [...]

  • Invisible Life Brazilian Cinema

    Karim Ainouz on Cannes Un Certain Regard's ‘The Invisible Life’

    CANNES  —  Karim Aïnouz’s “The Invisible Life” begins with two  sisters, not much over 20, Eurídice (Carol Duarte) and Guida (Julia Stockler) sitting by the shore of one of the multiple bays around Rio de Janeiro, a lush tropical forest behind. They have all their life in front of them. Guida suddenly dashes off clambering [...]

  • Cannes: Neon, Hulu Acquire 'Portrait of

    Cannes: Neon, Hulu Acquire Celine Sciamma’s 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire'

    Neon and Hulu have acquired North American rights to Céline Sciamma’s love story “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” which premiered in competition at Cannes. Neon is planning a theatrical release for the film this year, which will include an awards campaign in all categories. The film is set in Brittany, France in 1770. Marianne [...]

  • Brightburn review

    Film Review: 'Brightburn'

    “Superman” meets “The Omen” in “Brightburn,” a watchable but super-silly mix of superheroics and evil-child horror that mashes together singularly uninspired ideas from both. Offering R-rated fantasy competition to “Aladdin” this Memorial Day weekend, it should do OK with undiscriminating audiences seeking familiar, forgettable genre thrills. But the franchise prayers that an open-ended fadeout dangles [...]

  • Aladdin

    Film Review: Will Smith in 'Aladdin'

    Of all the characters in Walt Disney Studios’ canon, is there any more animated than the Genie from “Aladdin”? In 1992, old-school cartooning seemed the only way to keep up with comedian Robin Williams’ rapid-fire sense of humor and free-associative gift for improvisation. Much of the appeal of the original “Aladdin” came thanks to the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content