Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers from A24’s “Stars at Noon.”
“Stars at Noon” follows the life of American journalist Trish (Margaret Qualley) in modern-day Nicaragua who is now stranded and trying to find her way back home to Texas. She runs into an Englishman in a bar, Daniel (Joe Alwyn), hoping to find safety in another outsider, but they fall uncontrollably in love with each other. As time goes on, and his identity is revealed as a corrupt oil businessman, she realizes she has put herself in more danger and getting back home is definitely not as easy as she thinks.
The first half of the movie is simply following Trish around in Nicaragua as she struggles to find a bed to rest in, a man to sleep with and food to eat. I doubted this movie in the beginning because of how impatient I am, but by the end, I was pleasantly surprised. It took about an hour for the enjoyment to kick in and I’m glad I waited. Once you get through the first bit, you’ll be hooked.
The only main downside to this film is the lack of historical context. Since “Stars at Noon” is based on a novel written in the 80s by Denis Johnson, there is still conflict boiling over from the Nicaraguan Revolution. However, this version of “Stars at Noon” takes place in today’s era of the pandemic. Trish wants to write about the Costa Rican invasion, but in today’s world, the topic isn’t covered much in the media, explaining her downfall as a journalist and why she is stranded with no income. It makes sense if you look at the bigger picture, but I would have been lost without looking it up.
There is one scene that saved me from exiting this movie out of boredom because of how long it took to get to the action-packed scenes. Daniel threatens to go back to England after she realizes he is wanted by the Department of Defense, and Trish slips off into a room that is dimly, yet beautifully lit with a purple hue after finding out. A DJ plays music in the background (which is rare for this movie, the lyrical score was pretty minimal). This was euphoric. It was so beautiful, and the lighting set the scene apart from the rest of the two-hour movie. No words were spoken, but so much was said between the two. This is what made me sit up and pay more attention to what was going on. You felt real chemistry, even though they were dancing so close together their faces were out of frame. I could go on forever about this scene, and I wish there were more of these than the unnecessary sex scenes between all of the action.
Along with the dancing scene, the movie was filmed impeccably with elongated suspense rather than jam-packed action. It ultimately became an easy watch for me, and I appreciated how a lot of the scenes were in real-time, not jumping around to random subplots.
Even though this movie has been described as a thriller, I think the correct way to describe it is a drama because of the focus on Daniel and Trish’s rocky relationship. I understand A24 loves their sex scenes, as we see in their other films like “Midsommar” (2019), but I do think the sex scenes in “Stars at Noon” were a bit much, and the seductive scenes weren’t as impactful as I had hoped. I did like some parts of their relationship though, it seemed like I was watching a documentary of the two as a real couple rather than actors because of how natural some of their interactions were. Their moments and arguments reminded me of “Malcolm and Marie” (2021), where the camera follows them as they realistically bicker and make amends over and over.
“Stars at Noon” isn’t for everyone, I’ll admit it. When I say slow-burning, I mean it. But overall, the chemistry between Trish and Daniel and their anxiety-inducing scenes of escaping death and incarceration had a good balance with their love life, despite the sex scenes being a bit much. I can’t say I’ve watched a film super similar to this one before, and everyone deserves to see their messy story unfold.
“Stars at Noon” is available to stream on Hulu.
By Amena Ahmed