Writer/Director Maris Curran’s feature directorial debut is sure to be one of the year’s best-received films. Her moving portrait of loss and braving a broken heart to find solace through connection will linger with you. We recently caught up with Maris in advance of her bringing FIVE NIGHTS IN MAINE to the Nantucket Film Fest.
NFF: In preparing to speak with you, I revisited my initial impressions of your film. I remember being pleased by the unexpected casting; being impressed by the expansive space you created in a fairly discrete set, and being super pleased I was watching the work of a female director. What are the impressions you hope audiences will take away from watching your film?
MC: All the things you said are very important to me. When I think about the audience and what they take away it’s about the emotional content; about slowing down and creating room to feel. I want the audience to go on an emotional journey with the lead. Each person will have their own experience with the film, but hopefully they’ll leave talking about their own parallel experiences. To have the film start conversations among its viewers would be the best takeaway.
NFF: The characters of Sherwin and Lucinda needed to be able to sustain a particular kind of chemistry. David [who’s also a producer of the film] was already attached when casting began, but how did you go about find his right partner in Dianne Wiest?
MC: It’s interesting, when you’re casting a two-hander, you’re always paying attention to chemistry. Their dynamic was important. They didn’t meet until they were on-set, since having friction between the characters was important. Dianne is so deep and nuanced; we know her from comedy, but she also possesses a depth I wanted to push into. Even she was surprised by her performance and asked me “how did you know this was in me?” There was magic in having the actors come into film almost like the characters. As to casting Dianne, I was looking for, a woman over 65 who could play complicated, emotional and acerbic, and someone who would play that fearlessly and that person was Dianne. She was very excited to take on the role.
NFF: While this film is not autobiographical, you’ve said it was written from a very personal place. What were some of the benefits and challenges in mining creative work from that place?
MC: I think that’s how I work as a director. When you’re working in emotional terrain--I make earnest, empathetic cinema--the shorthand you can use to establish where the characters are is to share emotional experiences. Even before shooting, when doing scene work and talking with my collaborators, I would share where the script was coming from (i.e., a vulnerable place) and my collaborators would also share in kind. It creates a real investment in the work. As far as challenges from working in such a personal manner the challenge involves your taking a risk and I’m not afraid of risk-taking in my work.
NFF: Maine is very much a 4th character in the film. Talk about your decision to set the film there.
MC: I grew up in the beginning of North Philly in an artistic and diverse area. Every summer growing up we’d spend time in Maine with family. It impressed upon me from a young age the fact that there are different Americas. Maine is a place you could imagine the lead (Sherwin) finding solace, but it’s also a conservative area, so you could see him feeling alien. Maine is also a place we don’t often get to see on-screen and I wanted to feature its unique geography.
NFF: In your own words, why should people come to see Five Nights in Maine at Nantucket Film Festival?
MC: It’s an emotionally-resonant film and a film for adults. The audience is given a glimpse at the inner-lives of these characters, and it’s a film about sinking into yourself and your feelings, and I think we can all use that in the summer!
Five Nights in Maine plays the Nantucket Film Festival on June 22nd and 25th. Maris will be in attendance at both screenings.