Set in the present day, the film follows Trish (Margaret Qualley), an American working as a journalist and special correspondent in Nicaragua. Soon, Trish learns that her presence in Nicaragua is not welcome, and now she could be at high risk. But when she loses access to her passport, she is unable to leave. Returning to the hotel, she quickly stops at the bar to have a few drinks, given her frustrating day.
Soon, Trish spots a man who catches her eye- an Englishman who is quite mysterious named Daniel (Joe Alwyn). Trish opens up a conversation with Daniel and discovers he is a businessman working with people who run an Oil company. Daniel carries a smooth and charming personality which Trish admires. From this, the pair share a night of passion, and Daniel continues to reveal more about himself on a more profound and darker level. Daniel requests to see Trish again, and an unlikely romance develops. However, little does Trish know that she is now part of a major conspiracy with Daniel, who is a prime suspect. What is the truth and what is a lie is now a common question? Trish ponders what her heart truly desires and will continually try to find a way to escape Nicaragua safely with Daniel.
If you are unaware, Stars at Noon is best described as a romantic thriller with some dramatic moments. Based on a well-known novel by Denis Johnson, minor changes have been made to make it more relevant for audiences. For instance, this feature is set in the present day, with the pandemic thrown in the mix.
I enjoyed the location, along with the visuals. There’s a strong sense that Trish is trapped, unhappy and struggling to accept defeat relating to her passport issues. The addition of the pandemic setting is a pleasing touch and relatable for many viewers. Not only does Trish feels trapped, but she’s also dealing with the pandemic. The pandemic adds weight to her already significant problems in life, not to mention her new romance that becomes a personal wrestle.
Unfortunately, Stars at Noon steps forward at a snail’s pace. Watching everything unfold with Trish’s problems and even the introduction of a new romance is extremely slow. Even when the film reached its first hour, I was surprised to find how little plot had been developed. Thankfully, the film hangs off a couple of mysteries- whether Daniel is a good man or something else and can Trish and Daniel escape. Both aspects are a nice touch and give the viewers some form of investment and reward. I found the storyline extremely slow and challenging to support regardless of one’s investment. The romance aspect is hard to accept but granted, this will differ and be subjective from viewer to viewer depending on one’s taste and preference for romance. The score has its moments that shine, but there were also moments where I felt the themes in the score could have been developed and used again.
Overall, this is a slow-paced, drawn-out thriller that hinges on a couple of mysteries and a romance with surrounding themes of trust, love, and passion. Those who are fans of either the original novel or perhaps even the previous work from director Claire Denis will benefit from viewing this film the most. Sadly, even after the film reaches its first one-hour mark, I was surprised to find that only a little actually happens. Stars at Noon attempts to be thrilling, adorable and sexy, but none of the themes or emotions is felt on-screen. I enjoyed that the film tries to be modern and relevant to the present day, such as adding the pandemic into the equation along a stunning location. Again, like the story itself, performances don’t speak loudly to me or feel memorable. Sadly, while somewhat mysterious and tragic, watching this film unfold felt like watching paint dry. Sure, it has its moments, but it’s not a good sign when you’re grateful to see the credits finally appear and you utter a sigh of relief. Stars at Noon (2022) is Available in Australian Cinemas from December 1st.
26th November 2022
Written by Peter Walkden
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Our opinion on this feature has also been submitted to Rotton Tomatoes (Audiences Score*).