“Excruciating” is the word Sherwin, played affectingly by David Oyelowo, uses to describe the tragic loss of his wife and his journey from Atlanta to her remote, rural home place in Maine to visit her estranged mother. It also describes the brutal pacing and painful subject matter of Five Nights In Maine, a film about a black man in a cold and unwelcoming setting — literally getting shot at — while contending with a mother-in-law dying from cancer who is both suffering and dishing out unbelievable cruelty. It must be said that Dianne Wiest, portraying mother-in-law Lucinda, is mesmerizing and sometimes terrifying to watch as she grapples with her own failings while attempting to maintain a sense of dignity for herself.
The film raises a fundamental question, albeit perhaps unwittingly: Is art meant to provide an accurate reflection of human experience, or should it extract some beauty from suffering? The answer provided by Five Nights In Maine leans towards the former, yielding no relief or reconciliation, and only the barest hint of catharsis.
Five Nights In Maine screens on Saturday at 11 a.m. at UNCSA Babcock Theatre and April 10 at 7 p.m. at Hanesbrands Theatre.
— Jordan Green