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Five Nights In Maine looks at grief close up

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Close-ups continue as Fiona exits the story, capturing the collapse of Sherwin’s face as he learns that his wife has died in a car crash. In general, writer-director Maris Curran stays too close to this tragedy, both visually and narratively, for Maine to become one of those movies about a grieving spouse shutting themselves off from the world before learning to love again. When Sherwin heads from Atlanta to Maine to see Fiona’s ailing mother, Lucinda (Dianne Wiest), he’s still very much in the raw aftermath of his loss, in no condition to meet a fetching young woman who can get him to open his heart, life, etc.

And he doesn’t—not fully. That’s not a spoiler, because Curran’s film is at once admirable in its avoidance of easy sentiment and kind of predictable once its quiet seriousness makes itself known (which is to say very early on). Sherwin doesn’t quite know how to go on living, beyond his use of alcohol to numb his pain, and he knows even less about how to live with the difficult-to-please Lucinda, however temporarily. As they share awkward meals, sometimes prepared by Lucinda’s housekeeper, Ann (Rosie Perez), there are flashes of Sherwin’s loving but fraught relationship with Fiona.

Five Nights In Maine runs around 75 minutes without its end credits, but still manages to take its time getting to Maine, and to Lucinda. Her entrance about a third of the way through, along with Wiest’s flinty performance, conceal Lucinda’s physical weakness, a symptom of her ongoing fight with cancer; late in the film, the sight of her frail body registers as a little shock. Wiest conveys the sadness and anger of a difficult woman who expected to lose her own life before losing her daughter without many histrionics. It seems like an unnecessary fail-safe, then, that the movie has her howl her precise source of angst practically at the last minute—an interlude of big emotion in an otherwise murmur-toned elegy.

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