Night on Earth Review: LIFF 2018

Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earthfirst premiered in 1991, is simple in its premise: it follows five taxi drivers, in five different cities, over one night. Despite this simplicity, Jarmusch’s film is an engaging character study, with interesting relationships developing between driver and passenger.  Whilst the respective pairs may seem mismatched – a young chain-smoking tomboy (Winona Ryder) and a glamorous casting agent (Gena Rowlands), or an oversharing Italian cabbie (Roberto Benigni) and a priest – every character is captivating in a certain way, and indeed the film benefits from a superb cast, with the scene that takes place in New York, featuring a try-hard trendsetter named ‘YoYo’ (Giancarlo Esposito) and a German cabbie (Armin Mueller-Stahl) who was a clown in his past life and who cannot actually drive, being especially funny. Although the film does drag on slightly, the rapport between driver and passenger is enough to keep us entertained for the most part. Even though we may remain engaged, the long drive of Night on Earthdoesn’t really get to a destination; the stories, taking place in LA, New York, Paris, Rome and Helsinki, are only linked by the fact that they take place at the same time, and there is no sense of revelation or resolve as the film concludes. We expect something to happen, but it doesn’t, thus leaving the viewer somewhat unfulfilled. Overall, Night on Earthshould not be watched with the expectation of a global thrill-ride, but nonetheless it does make for a unique viewing experience, Jarmusch’s nighttime roads being places of both hilarity and harrowing sadness.

Hannah Stokes

Image Courtesy of Janus Films