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Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

Janna Does TIFF: Night Moves

In a film about a large-scale act of terrorism, you expect to see grand plans, lots of build-up, and a climax at the main event. But as Kelly Reichardt proves with her film Night Moves, sometimes the real story takes place after the main event goes boom.

Credit Maybach Film Productions

Night Moves tells the story of three environmental activists in Oregon who come together to commit an act of eco-terrorism – to blow up a large dam. The activists are Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), a small-town farmer; Dena (Dakota Fanning), a disillusioned rich girl; and Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard), an ex-marine; together, they’ve decided to take a stand in a large and pronounced way. They make their plans in a backwoods camp and set things in motion under the cover of darkness – but, it turns out, the real story begins as they’re pulling away from the dam and hear the explosion in the distance. In dealing with the aftermath of their decisions, we get to watch and learn that the fallout may not always be worth the initial ideals.

Reichardt is a much-lauded director, but her filmmaking style is slow and pensive – she takes her time with her plots, allowing scenes to play out with long shots and little dialogue. While this can sometimes bore viewers and result in her films commercially underperforming, her style actually works well for Night Moves. The slow, lingering pace of the film helps build tension and suspense, giving the audience room to watch the characters unravel. Reichardt knows what she’s doing behind the lens, and her strong vision and voice is the film’s true backbone. It allows the film to showcase not only the beautiful landscape of Oregon, but also the talent of the actors.

Credit Maybach Film Productions

The motives for Josh, Dena and Harmon are never clearly defined – while we don’t know why they want to blow up a dam, we do get to see the fallout from their actions. And despite clear reasoning, all three actors breathe interesting tics and compelling movements into their characters – ones that make us viewers interested. Fanning plays the privileged idealist well, and while it isn’t a huge leap for her in terms of range, it shows that her talent as a child wasn’t a fluke. Sarsgaard, as a laid-back ex-marine, is unfortunately often relegated to the sidelines of the film, and it’s a shame. His character is interesting, and the movie’s second half could have only been stronger if it had shown his fallout, as well. And Eisenberg’s character’s descent into paranoia is fraught with desperation, and while he isn’t fully relegated into being the story’s villain, he becomes unsettling and cold in ways we’ve never seen him before.

While Night Moves may not be the most accessible fare, it presents a compelling look at the vanity and pointlessness of activism. With beautiful visuals, strong performances and an even stronger directorial voice, it’s certainly worth a watch.


While Night Moves received lukewarm reviews at TIFF, it won the top prize at the Deauville Film Festival, indicating strong critical support. It has been picked up for North American distribution by Cinedigm and is slated for release in the spring.

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