Based on Denis Johnson’s cult novel, Margaret Qualley and Joe Alwyn star in this heady and alluring romantic thriller from NZIFF fave Claire Denis, directing her second English-language feature.
Sharing the Grand Prix at Cannes this year, Claire Denis’s newest film (and second this year) is a steamy tropical reverie starring Margaret Qualley as a journalist moonlighting as a sex worker, who is stranded in Nicaragua and sees a handsome English businessman (played by Joe Alwyn) as her chance to escape.
“A slow-motion erotic thriller whose sexiness swirls off the screen like a bank of humidity in the tropics, shortening your breath and clinging to your clothes. Stars at Noon… was adapted from the 1986 Denis Johnson novel The Stars at Noon, which has been hauled forwards to a close-to-present day of trackable smartphones and half-hearted Covid mask use.
Qualley, best known for playing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s young hippie Pussycat, is a revelation here, teasing out her character’s flaws to the point where they become addictive to watch, and imbuing her with a sometimes-nervy, sometimes-forlorn physicality that recalls a young Juliette Binoche. Many of the film’s best early passages consist of little more than watching her walk the streets of Managua to a lazily eddying improvised jazz score – perhaps Denis’s Central American riff on the famous Paris-by-night scenes in Lift to the Scaffold… Denis has crafted a film that syncs your heartbeat to its own intoxicating rhythms: a full-body immersion in uneasy pleasures.” – Robbie Collin, The Telegraph