Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Movie – When Night Is Falling (1995)

When Night Is Falling is a Canadian film from writer/director Patricia Rozema.  It features a love triangle between a white man, a white woman, and a black woman.  The two women could not be more different.  Camille (Pascale Bussieres) is a respected professor at a conservative Christian college.  Petra (Rachael Crawford) is a bohemian circus performer.  And the triangle isn’t the two fighting over Camille’s fiancé – Martin (Henry Czerny); it’s Petra trying to seduce Camille away.

Camille and Martin are officially engaged in order to make their bosses at the college they teach at overlook the fact that they are living together.  The college president comes to them and tells them that they can be chosen to be co-Chaplains of the college if they’ll actually get married.  Martin’s all for it, but Camille is dragging her feet.  When her dog dies she realizes she loved the dog far more than she has ever loved Martin.

While at a laundromat Camille meets Petra.  The two start talking and Camille breaks down over her dog.  Petra comforts her, and then deliberately swaps their laundry so that Camille will have to visit to correct the “mistake”.

Camille wanders into what might as well be another world when she goes to Petra’s circus trailer.  Along the way Camille sees a number of strange acts (think Cirque du Soleil, not Ringling Brothers), including Petra doing a dance with glowing globes.  Camille is very intrigued by Petra, but when Petra comes on way too strong, Camille panics and leaves.

Petra stays on Camille’s mind, but Camille has a huge hurdle to get over in that everything she has been taught says that lesbianism is evil.  Even if she was fine with it, she’d still be cheating on her fiancé if she took up with Petra.  It’s a moral crisis for her, made worse by her emotional crisis with the marriage, her job, and her dog all coming to a head.  Which, if either, of the two people in her life will she choose to be with?

The film originally received an NC-17 rating, although there’s nothing in the two sex scenes that would remotely merit anything more than an R.  I think it’s just that it was two women having sex that gave the MPAA a heart attack.  The movie ended up being released unrated in the U.S.

The cinematography is quite good in this film.  The storytelling is somewhat simplistic.  The stark contrast between the uptight halls of religious academia and the free spirited fun times at the circus makes it no doubt where the writer/director’s sympathies lie.  Hell, Petra even shows up to woo Camille one time literally dressed as Cupid.  You can’t get more blatant than that.  It’s a cute scene, though.

Both Bussieres and Crawford do good jobs, especially Bussieres who has the more fully developed role to play.  Perhaps a little overlooked in the film, but still giving a good performance, is Czerny as the cuckolded fiancé.  At least the film doesn’t make him out to be a horrible person to make Camille’s choice an easy one.  I’ve seen too many other movies make that mistake.

There’s a short scene after the credits that you may want to wait for.

If seeing two women in a romantic relationship would bother you then you should skip this movie.  If the addition of an interracial aspect to the relationship would bother you then you should skip it.  For everyone else, if this film sounds interesting then I recommend you give it a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


  1. I just saw a movie recently that would fit well into your theme - The Crimson Kimono (1959). Directed by Samuel Fuller, it's a police procedural that takes place in Little Tokyo. A white detective and his partner, a Japanese-American, fall in love with the same white woman. it goes off in all kind of unexpected directions for the period.

  2. I've never heard of it. Thanks for the tip. I will check it out.