“He said, she said” narratives stem from a patriarchal lens, yet filmmakers continue to shift that truth. After all, in a post-Me Too era for American filmmakers, there’s genuine hope that the lines have been redrawn. However, the mindset of “deserving” sex and power continues to corrupt. Director Delphine Girard reminds the audience in Through the Night that even “he said, she said, she said” situations result in dwindling power for women. A rigged game is devasting and continues to destroy lives.

After a night at a party, Aly (Selma Alaoui) rides in a car through the darkness. Dary (Guillaume Duhesme), whose anger is palpable in his short bursts, drives Through The Night. Aly tells Dary she’s calling her sister, but in reality, has called emergency services. With the help of operator Anna (Veerle Baetens), the police locate and stop Dary. After his arrest, Aly, Dary, and Anna attempt to find balance. However, the emotional scarring of the night’s events has unmoored them from their lives.

Early in Through the Night, the energy flowing through the screen is undeniably gripping. The cuts between Alaoui and Baetens raise the stakes, with each actress hitting the emotional draw of the sequence. These two women can bring down a man unwilling to let his better judgment come to light. Duhesme creates a cornered creature, driven mad by fermented rage and hostility. Each of the performers owns their roles, and we feel the power of the story. As a short, Through the Night would have been a more impactful version of The Guilty from Gustav Möller.

Sadly, Through the Night never recaptures that power. After the arrest, Girard utilizes flashbacks to inform the audience about what happened that evening. However, while the story seeks to crescendo by revealing the truth, the puzzle has already been solved. During the various interrogations in the movie, Alaoui simply tries to withdraw her accusation. At that moment, the truth and horror of the situation come into focus.

Women must continue to fight for even basic protections under the law. In America, rights have been stripped away. In other countries, the same remains possible. The patriarchal nature of our systems remains entrenched, and at one point, it’s never more evident than a defense attorney’s line echoing in the background. While the camera remains fixated on Duhesme and Baetens, a question about the assumption that women are always the victims is spoken aloud by an attorney.

The problematic and unnerving idea that this would serve as a valid defense in the court of law makes everything about Through the Night more unnerving. What happens to the women in this story is almost unimportant. The general dismissive tone and resentment lurking inside the characters becomes the most rewarding aspect of the film. It’s why these crimes occur again and again. Some men feel entitled, which makes this violence inevitable.

While Girard lands these concepts gracefully, the narrative of Through the Night cannot live up to these early moments. Instead, the movie feels too long, the story feels predictable, and the power of the actresses gets sidelined to show Dary’s perspective. While these stories must be brought to light, Girard tells this version as straightforward as they come. Sadly, this does not help Through the Night as a standout production but causes it to get lost in the shuffle of similar stories. It needs more specificity in its storytelling to rise to the heights that Girard seems poised to reach one day.

Alan’s Rating: 6/10

What do you think of Through the Night? Let us know in the comments below! Through the Night played at the 2023 Venice Film Festival as part of Giornate degli Autori.

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