Kicking off with a masterful opening scene, we're introduced to war-zone photographer Rebecca (Juliette Binoche) in Kabul as she photographs a female suicide bomber prepping for an attack. Deciding to put her work before alerting any potential victims, Rebecca remains up close right until the bomb goes off, and she is sent back to her family in Ireland to recuperate.
It's here that things begin to fall apart, when we spend time with Rebecca's distant husband Marcus (Nikolaj Walter-Costau) and equidistant daughters. Having to deal with a life with their wife/mother may never come home from work, they've got some naturally built-up resentment towards her; enough for her to notice and jack in her job. But can she resist the lure of her natural calling?
An interesting albeit heavy-handed dilemma, but one portrayed in a very uninteresting and very heavy-handed way. Binoche is a fine actress, and goes above and beyond in her performance here, delivering a nuanced character so that you’re never quite sure if she's addicted to excitement of her profession, or if there's a higher reasoning at work, one where she believes her pictures might actually bring some attention to an area of the world that needs it.
But this dilemma is dragged out over almost two hours, with Rebecca attempting to adjust to a normal life, and finding it difficult, bored by the hum-drum activities of a stay-at-home mother. That might be realistic, but it's not exactly cinematic. When Rebecca brings her daughter (Lauryn Canny, remarkably terse and emotionally wounded) to a refugee camp in Kenya so she can get a better grade in school, it's painfully unrealistic, but it's also a vital shot in the arm for a movie that was otherwise putting the audience to sleep.
Like the lead character, director Poppe has a good eye and makes Ireland look gorgeous, but he lacks the ability to provide any kind of emotional resonance with the story he's telling. If it weren't for Binoche, Canny and the two aforementioned stand-out scenes, A Thousand Times Goodnight would a worthy story that was entirely unworthy of your time.