Stars at Noon is the second film of 2022 for fence filmmaker Claire Denis. The other one, Both Sides of the Blade starring Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon (Titane) was almost unwatchable. Her film High Life from 2018 starring Robert Pattinson was quite the contrary. I was totally engaged by this man living on a space station with his daughter. Stars at Noon is closer to High Life than Both Sides of the Blade. If winning a big award at the Festival De Canne has anything to say about it this is the film to watch of hers this year.
Trish (Margaret Qualley) is an American journalist stuck in wartime Nicaragua. She resorts to selling her body to get things she wants in this backward central America Latin country. She is at her wit’s end when she ends up meeting an English businessman Daniel (Joe Alwin). They fall madly in love with one another but this man isn’t necessarily what he seems. She problems mount when the Costorican police come after them. She is in a tough place and ends up in more danger than she previously was.
Qualley and Alwin are fantastic in this film together, mostly Qualley though. She does a lot of physical acting as this young woman who is struggling to survive in this third-world country. She does some questionable things most people wouldn’t do but she needs to get out of Nicaragua by any means she can. I wasn’t familiar with her as an actress before this film but she made me interested in her career after watching what she did in this role. A lot of actresses would have gone this far for their craft.
The film has a very good look to it, whereas a couple of Denis’s other films weren’t that good-looking. The camera work followed the characters nicely and the buildings, streets, and wilderness all looked very good. The look of the film helped make it more excessive to me. The journey of where the two main characters were going in the story put it over the top. The film was very engrossing and in a real-world setting, this could happen to anyone. So I was invested in these people.
The supporting characters were interesting as well. Benny Safdie, yes that Benny Safdie of the directing duo the Safdie Brothers who directed Uncut Gems and Good Time played an enigmatic CIA Agent who tries to help this lovestruck duo. Also in a small cameo, John C Reilly plays Qualley’s boss at the paper she writes for. And as a Costirican policeman Danny Ramirez. He was a little scary. All these actors rounded out the cast very nicely.
Stars at Noon is an interesting story of this young lady journalist and how she is stuck in a situation over her head. She wrote one article and it got her stuck in this backwater country with a war of control in it. Her only hope isn’t who he is supposed to be and that makes things worse for both of them. Qually is a revelation to me in this film. She just goes to whatever level she needs to go to to make her character sympathetic and empathetic to follow along with. This movie with its political machinations is nothing without her. Denis gets everything she can out of Qualley. Also, the film looks really good as well.
3 ½ stars
Dan Skip Allen