Director Appreciation Week 2 Review: Nights and Weekends (2008)

This is perhaps the most under-appreciated film of the mumblecore genre. It focuses upon the long distance relationship between James (Joe Swanberg) and Mattie (Greta Gerwig). We follow them on the titular nights and weekends, as James visits Mattie in New York, and in return Mattie visits James in Chicago. For 90% of the movie they are the only two characters on screen, and so it is great that they are so absorbing to watch. As with all of Swanberg’s films the plot is slim at best, but thankfully the relationship at the heart of the movie is a completely raw, thoroughly intriguing one. We watch as they struggle along in one of the most realistic portrayals of long-distance relationships on screen in recent years. They argue, they have sex, they lounge around. It is your usual mumblecore topics, but there is something deeper here, brought about mainly through the improvisational qualities of both Swanberg and Gerwig. A particular affecting moment is when the two discuss the role we ultimately play in other people’s lives. It feels like something Richard Linklater would produce if given only a few thousand dollars to work with.
After a trip to New York and then to Chicago, the film jumps forward a year. It is there that the film really treads new ground, and allows what it has built to finally be unleashed in a saddening, at moments brutal, look at the harsh realities of relationships.
It’s a movie to be seeked out. A tiny, unpolished and yet quietly impressive movie that digs deeper and exposes more of relationships than perhaps it first lets on.

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