Opening 7 Mar 2013
Bille August’s adaptation of the popular novel Night Train to Lisbon tells the story of a Swiss professor Raimond (Jeremy Irons) who leaves his intellectual and passionless life behind to begin a journey that changes his life. When he saves a young woman from committing suicide, he finds a mysterious philosophical book of writings by a man, Amadeu (Jack Huston), from Portugal. As he goes on a quest to find him, Raimond meets a wide variety of interesting people who reveal the intricacies of who Amadeu was and of the unspoken truths of the Portuguese revolution.
For the majority of the film, Night Train to Lisbon is a charming and thrilling story with an interesting backdrop of the time leading up to Portugal’s Carnation Revolution and the effect it has on individuals to this day. While there are moments of true feeling (especially in regards to how the characters who lived through the revolution are dealing with it in the present), the greatest downfall of Night Train to Lisbon is its plot. The first half of the film is essentially driven by the question of who the mysterious suicidal woman was, but this subtext is quickly discarded in response to the compelling story of Amadeu and his friends. When the mysterious woman’s motivations and identity are revealed, it feels forced, almost as though it was a forced addition to tie up loose ends. In fact, all of the conclusions that the film draws feel too contrived to really make it a satisfying film. Considering that the story had so much promise in the beginning, this makes it even more disappointing when the ending fails to be satisfactory.
Night Train to Lisbon is yet another example of a promising film which suffered from an unsatisfactory ending. Fortunately, due to the decent acting, beautiful scenery and a compelling story, the film is not totally a waste. However, for savvy viewers who prefer to watch movies that have the whole package, you wouldn’t be amiss in skipping this one. (Rose Finlay)