'A Night Without Armor': Film Review

Courtesy of Indie Rights
An earnest but unmoving tearjerker.

Pepper Binkley and Jacob Fishel are strangers in the night in Steven Alexander's talky meditation on love and duty.

A ships-passing-in-the-night weepie aimed as much at sensitive men as the women with a soft spot for them, Steven Alexander's A Night Without Armor is a two-hander whose attempts to transcend staginess generally fall flat. Some who happen across it will respond to its talky earnestness about love and idealism, but Before Sunrise it ain't, and commercial prospects are very slim.

Jacob Fishel makes a rocky start as Adam, a man escaping marital strife with a solitary night watching a meteor shower near New Orleans. Awkward in a voiceover alluding to the big questions he needs to ponder, the actor is even stiffer when a strange woman intrudes on the spot Adam has chosen for stargazing. As Nicole (Pepper Binkley) nervously makes getting-to-know-you chitchat, he is taciturn to the point of rudeness, but not in a very believable way.

Both have chosen to watch the sky from the isolated old 19th century Fort Jackson, the movie's sole bit of production value, which at least affords a variety of attractively ruined backdrops for their slow-starting, then incessant dialogue. (Alexander's frequent use of crane shots, though, is unmotivated and distracting.) Binkley, having an easier time with her character than Fishel is, sticks with the interaction until Adam decides it's time to open up — around the time he and Nicole talk about their favorite movies. (He likes Adam Sandler's Click and she digs Bridges of Madison County; their common ground is Frank Darabont.)

Adam is cagey about his problems at home, allowing Nicole to make her case for true love and soulmates before he finally admits, "I don't think I've ever been in love." Cue a long, sad story about how a perfect-seeming relationship went cold when he allowed his wife to talk him into having a kid. Now he's bitter and lonely, but won't leave because he wants his son to have a full-time dad.

That's the kind of stand Nicole can respect, even if at some point during all this — the montage in which they play baseball on the lawn, perhaps? — she has come to suspect he may be The One, and has started (in the tamest of ways) to test the strength of his fidelity.

Often sounding like a dorm-room discourse on the meaning of life, Chaun Domingue's dialogue covers the existence of God, life on other planets and the merits of various baseball players. When the talk runs out of steam, we discover that Adam even plays guitar — and Nicole joins him for a less-than-great vocal duet. Though the push-pull of their star-crossed flirtation does get slightly more involving in the picture's closing act, it isn't a good sign when a viewer pauses to wonder, "Hey, shouldn't the meteors be coming down pretty heavily by now? Can we point the camera up for a few minutes, please?"

Production companies: Alien Chadow Films, Industry Pictures, Thinkfilmwest
Distributor: Indie Rights
Cast: Pepper Binkley, Jacob Fishel
Director: Steven Alexander
Screenwriter-producer: Chaun Domingue
Executive producers: Steven Alexander, Adam Barrois, Victoria Barrois
Director of photography: Xavier Henselman
Production designers: Steven Alexander, Chaun Domingue, Xavier Henselman
Editor: Kevin Ham
Composer: Ilsik Byun
Casting director: Steven Alexander

106 minutes