'Gone in the Night'

John Gallagher Jr. and Winona Ryder in a scene from 'Gone in the Night' (2022).

Eli Horowitz’s “Gone in the Night” is the sort of film that, once you’ve finished it, you’re likely to say, “I can make a better movie than that!”

And you’d probably be right. An initially engaging thriller with a solid performance from Winona Ryder, it flies spectacularly off the rails with a third act that contains a climax so outlandish it has to be seen to be believed. Better yet, don’t bother. I’ve suffered through it so you don’t have to.

Ryder is Kath, a solitary middle-aged woman involved with Max (John Gallagher Jr.), a much younger man not nearly as settled as she, still prone to impulsive, immature acts and knee-jerk emotional responses. At his urging, they’ve taken an impromptu trip, a weekend away to a remote vacation rental. However, once they arrive, they find another couple staying there. Though similar in age, Al and Greta (Owen Teague and Brianne Tju) seem like an odd couple as well. While Al is put off by these circumstances, Greta invites Kath and Max in to stay the night and sort things outs in the morning.

However, things become even murkier after sunrise, as Al informs Kath that their partners have run away with each other. Stunned, she returns home and tries to wrap her head around this turn of events. And while her friends tell her she’s better off, she still can’t shake the sense of unease this has caused.

Seeking answers, she contacts Nicholas (Dermot Mulroney), the owner of the rental. They meet, she relates her story, and while he says he can’t provide her with Greta’s information, a friendship develops between them that promises to develop into something more.

At this point, the script by Matthew Derby and Horowitz employs a series of flashbacks that reveal Kath’s trip to the woods was far more than it seemed. Interspersed with scenes showing her and Nicholas growing closer, these glimpses into the past reveal the truth behind the excursion, one that’s taken a tragic turn that no one — and I mean NO ONE — could anticipate.

At this point, I couldn’t help but think of the 1988 classic Dutch thriller “The Vanishing,” which sports a similar premise as it concerns a young man seeking answers about his girlfriend’s disappearance. Thoughtful and introspective, it focuses on obsessive behavior as well as the at-times-debilitating nature of grief. I was hoping Horowitz’s film would take a similar tact. How much more rewarding would it have been if Kath set out to find Max, never being able to get a straight answer as to his whereabouts, yet discovering more about herself as she tries? Or for she and Nicholas to share in the search, each of them finding a way to repair the harm in themselves on their journey?

See, I’m trying to write my own ending to this preposterous exercise. The premise is in place for a rewarding mystery and character study, which makes how this film plays out even more frustrating. I often complain that what with all the movies I’ve seen, I’m rarely surprised. Giving credit where it’s due, this film did surprise me, but not in the way I’d hoped. And while the final image is thoughtful and suggests a longing in Kath that’s never fully explored, its foundation is so ludicrous that it cannot be taken seriously.

There are far too many moments such as this in “Gone,” ones that suggest what might have been if a more mature and level-headed approach had been taken.

For DVR alerts, film recommendations and movie news, follow Koplinski on Twitter @ckoplinski. His email is chuckkoplinski@gmail.com.

For DVR alerts, film recommendations and movie news, follow Koplinski on Twitter (@ckoplinski). His email is chuckkoplinski@gmail.com.

Film Critic

Chuck Koplinski is The News-Gazette's film critic. His email is chuckkoplinski@gmail.com and you can follow him on Twitter (@ckoplinski).

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