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Night Train to Lisbon - Film Review

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by Louis Fameli (subscribe)
Published November 29th 2013
Drama, humour and romance - Night Train to Lisbon has it all
Directed by Academy-award winning director Bille August, Night Train to Lisbon is based on the Pierre Mercier novel of the same name. Featuring Jeremy Irons, Martina Gedeck and Charlotte Rampling, the film follows Raimund Gregorius (Irons) on a spontaneous journey to Portugal after a chance encounter with young Portuguese woman who is intent on jumping off the old Kirchenfeld bridge in Bern.

Night Train to Lisbon
Jeremy Irons in Night Train to Lisbon

Upon finding a train ticket in a book from within the woman's coat, which she leaves behind, Raimund decides on a whim to use the ticket. On his journey Raimund begins to read the book, written by Amadeu de Prado (Jack Huston), a young doctor and philosopher who was part of the resistance in Portugal in the 1960s. Connecting deeply with the author, the philosophy professor Raimund decides to seek Amadeu out in order to learn more about him.

After meeting Amadeu's sister Adriana (Rampling and Beatriz Batarda), Raimund becomes intrigued and seeks out a further understanding of the man and what shaped his life. As chance would have it, a visit to a local optometrist Mariana (Gedeck) provides an opportunity to do just that so Raimund takes it.

The film displays depth and substance, allowing the viewer to be slowly engrossed by the life of Amadeu and those he was closest with, namely his fellow resistance members Jorge and Estefania. This is the real standout of the film. Filled with highs, lows and everything between, each actor is believable, delivering strong performances.

Night Train to Lisbon
Jack Huston and Beatriz Batarda in Night Train to Lisbon

Equally entertaining is Irons' Raimund, the lonely professor who has seemingly left his life on a moments notice, who simultaneously serves as the viewer's window into the world of Portugal during Amadeu's lifetime and as narrator of his own thoughts. Alongside this, his budding romance with Mariana develops so quaintly throughout the film it threatens to go almost completely unnoticed until the final moments.

To put it simply, this is not your standard by the numbers film. There is quite a lot going on, with history unfolding around the revolution in Portugal, the love triangle between Amadeu, Estefania and Jorge, the soul searching of the people Amadeu left behind and the mystery of just who was the woman on the bridge that led to all this.

Night Train to Lisbon
Just who was the mystery woman? - Scene from Night Train to Lisbon

However, despite what may seem like too many threads in the one narrative, Night Train to Lisbon manages to neatly weave them all together without leaving any unattended. By the film's closing scenes, you will likely be satisfied at the ending provided. While one specific question remains (to share it here would be a spoiler), it is one you the viewer can quickly answer for yourself if you so choose.

One word of warning about this film, there are some scenes featuring medical procedures. These are done well, but anyone (such as myself) who is not necessarily comfortable with such viewing may want to avert their eyes for those few minutes.

Overall, Night Train to Lisbon is a film I can easily and gladly recommend viewing. Not necessarily for those wanting something light-hearted, but if you want cinema that may challenge you, make you think but still leaves you smiling, pick up a ticket for Night Train to Lisbon.

In cinemas 5 December 2013

^All images used courtesy of Pinnacle Films.
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