With its sweaty atmospheric style and stream of conscious narrative, auteur filmmaker Claire Denis’ Stars At Noon is a romantic thriller with a twist and is anchored by an incredibly committed performance from rising talent Margaret Qualley.
A young American journalist Trish (Margaret Qualley) stranded in present-day Nicaragua falls for an enigmatic Englishman (Joe Alwyn) who seems like her best chance of escape. She soon realizes, though, that he may be in even greater danger than she is.
Lauded as one of the leading filmmakers of her generation, celebrated writer-director Claire Denis is known to produce evocative and intense cinematic experiences and this is exactly where Stars At Noon fits. Adapted and re-designed for modern audiences from the cult novel by Denis Johnson, Stars at Noon is a hot, sweaty, and intense piece of passion and political intrigue that pulls in audiences. Set in a dilapidated Nicaragua during the extreme heights of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a layered character study and audiences will find themselves drawn into Denis’ latest work.
At the center of the story is rising star Margaret Qualley who takes on the role of Trish, an American expatriate journalist who arrived looking to make a name for herself, but who has turned to sex work to support herself while she digs in deeper to find new stories to work on. Her performance is brave and gutsy, and there’s a Jean Seberg quality to her performance. Much of her role is delivered through physical expression, and she handles plenty of depth in the part.
Cast opposite her is Joe Alwyn as the mysterious and dapper Englishman known only as Daniel. At first one of Trish’s casual lovers, he soon becomes a key part of the plot and his character provides a sense of enigma to the audience. Alwyn has a presence about him that can be likened to that of a reserved Cary Grant, and it’s this character type that impacts the story in a big way.
Stars at Noon is captured in a true stream-of-consciousness projection, and the tropical climate of Nicaragua adds to the uneasy feeling of this narrative. Both a love story and political thriller, its use of the genre is subtle and it’s more about what is revealed than big-time set pieces that set this film apart. Denis has shown that she’s more than willing to play with ideas of genre and convention and this is seen throughout the film.
For audiences seeking something different and intellectual in its construction, Stars at Noon is an interesting work to look at, and it is a true auteur work of the cinematic craft.