Review: The Sunlit Night

Jenny Slate in “The Sunlit Night.”

Dir. David Wnendt. 106 minutes.
2/5

Semi-successful artist Frances (Jenny Slate) moves from Manhattan to rural Norway, jointly to escape her family’s neurotic bickering and to work with Nils (Fridtjov Såheim) on an art project that involves painting an entire barn yellow.

American-Norwegian cultural misunderstandings, an outsized art project, a kooky village of Viking reenactors: there’s no reason that all this couldn’t add up to a worthwhile watching experience. Unfortunately, the narrative — and a convincing performance by Jenny Slate — are buried under mountains of twee contrivances. Norway is reduced to a sideshow of lingonberries, Vikings and knekkebrød, scored with relentless “quirky” xylophone plinking. In short, “The Sunlit Night” is what people who dislike Wes Anderson think Wes Anderson is like.

More frustrating than a thoroughly bad film is a stillborn good film. As Frances, Jenny slate is wryly observant, bringing some credibility even to the film’s thinnest moments. Zach Galifianakis is appropriately gruff as a too-serious Viking reenactor, recalling his turn as the put-upon lawyer in “Birdman.” Norway’s frigid fjords and mountains are made warm with picturesque photography. But “The Sunlit Night” drowns these elements in syrupy irony. “The Sunlight Night” is watchable, if not exactly good, and is recommended only for devoted quirk-lovers and Scandinaviologists.