Feb 20, 2023
By Kaveh Jalinous
Photography by Sundance Film Festival
After a three-year hiatus, Xavier Dolan–the critically acclaimed yet controversial Quebecois filmmaker is back, moving from film to what seems like every director’s new favorite toy: the limited series. In The Night Logan Woke Up, the filmmaker uses five, hour-long episodes to stretch out a relatively simple, if unfamiliar story about familial trauma.
Set in rural Quebec, the series is divided into two plotlines. The first, taking place in 2019, follows the four grown children of the Larouche family portrayed by Patrick Hivon, Xavier Dolan, Julie Le Breton and Eric Bruneau. When they return home to be by their dying mother’s side, each of them is fighting their personal demons and keeping their fair share of secrets.
The second plotline is set almost thirty years earlier. It follows the children during their turbulent youth and explains the reasons for their eventual fallout.
While the pilot mainly centers around the adult lives of the children, in order to set the series’ overall tone, the second episode is where the two narratives start to interact, with and influence one another.
Given the series’ relatively straightforward nature, The Night Logan Woke Up focuses more on exploring the identities of the individual characters rather than their narratives. This idea is especially apparent during the pilot episode, which is a series of character studies. Here, Dolan uses the premise of the Larouche matriarch’s impending death to show the ways in which each child processes their relationship with their mother, which is a reflection of their attitudes, memories and inner demons. Taking the time to define each character allows the viewer to comprehend their motivations and their complex interactions.
The Night Logan Woke Up doesn’t truly capture its audience, especially compared to Dolan’s lengthy yet unforgettable films. Part of this is due to the series’ sluggish nature. Both episodes screened at the festival are sprawling and filled with exposition, making it difficult to want to keep watching as you are thrown from one melodramatic situation to the next with little time to process anything.
The main reason the series falls short is that the characters aren’t interesting or defined enough to elevate the story. The series’ stale, uninteresting dialogue constantly reduces the characters to caricature-like imitations, solely defined by their shortcomings and struggles. Because of this, everything happening on screen feels manufactured, included to get a reaction out of the viewer. But, because of its shallowness, it is unable to leave a lasting impression.
The conclusion of the second episode includes a massive cliffhanger that holds some promise. As such, it’s possible that the series can make a lasting mark in future episodes, diving deep enough into its two central narratives to finally uncover something, anything, that feels real. (www.festival.sundance.org/program/film/638a21f2d406b2728df2e5d4)
Author rating: 5.5/10
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