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Before Night Falls (2001)

tomatometer

73

Average Rating: 6.8/10
Reviews Counted: 98
Fresh: 72 | Rotten: 26

An impressionistic, fragmented look at Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls' imagery manages to evoke a sense of the writer's artistry, and Bardem's strong performance holds the film together. Finally, a biopic done well.

93

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Critic Reviews: 29
Fresh: 27 | Rotten: 2

An impressionistic, fragmented look at Reinaldo Arenas, Before Night Falls' imagery manages to evoke a sense of the writer's artistry, and Bardem's strong performance holds the film together. Finally, a biopic done well.

audience

84

liked it
Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 21,797

My Rating

Movie Info

For his sophomore feature film effort, visual artist Julian Schnabel chronicles the life of one of Cuba's most charismatic literary voices, the late Reinaldo Arenas. Working with Arenas' friends and family, Schnabel recounts the author's impoverished rural upbringing and the intense love and support he receives from his mother (played by the director's wife, Olatz Lopez Garmendia). As a young man, Arenas (Javier Bardem) is singled out by his teachers and encouraged to further his skills as a

May 22, 2001

$2.8M

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All Critics (114) | Top Critics (34) | Fresh (72) | Rotten (26) | DVD (16)

In uniting to honor Arenas, Bardem and Schnabel create something extraordinary.

June 4, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Clearly this is Bardem's show. And Bardem walks away with it.

March 12, 2001
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a struggle not just to make art but to exist, which is itself an art. And to that goal, the cast members, led by the astonishing Bardem, allow themselves to be devoured by the roles they are playing.

February 23, 2001 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Though Schnabel's first picture, Basquiat, was notable for its excess and self-indulgence, the filmmaker shows restraint and maturity in this moving depiction of Arenas's life and loves.

February 23, 2001 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Soulful, deeply moving.

February 23, 2001
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This could have been a compelling movie about a wonderful writer, but instead it's a tedious, pointless mess. After spending over 2 hours with Arenas, I still knew nothing about him. Javier Bardem's great performance seemed to be a complete waste.

May 10, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Geek Central
Film Geek Central

One of the first features about Castro's impact on artists and homosexuals, this biopic is well acted by Bardem

April 30, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

"Before Night Falls" exuberantly portrays a writer whose legacy remains an acutely observant childhood spirit that no perversion of politics could break. Javier Bardem blends the swagger of Robert Downey Jr. and the brooding of a young Al Pacino.

September 25, 2010 Full Review Source: Suite101.com
Suite101.com

Schabel's most recent work fails to move me. While the story of Reinaldo Arenas is tragic enough to be interesting (and Javier Bardem's performance sympathetic) the film as a whole simply seems long and indulgent.

June 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Scouts
Film Scouts

despite a real commitment to Arenas and his work, the film just falls short.

July 25, 2003 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Saddled with a wandering opening and an equally listless conclusion, a more fitting name for this two hour-plus biopic might well be Before Night Falters.

February 17, 2003 Full Review Source: Entertainment Today
Entertainment Today

The cinematography is beautiful and clearly shows the director's artistic bent, but the storytelling is often disjointed. . . . Ultimately, Before Night Falls is more successful as a Javier Bardem showcase than a movie.

January 8, 2003

[Bardem] simply does what the script calls for him to do, which is basically sustain a look of pain for two-hours plus.

December 8, 2002 Full Review Source: TheMovieReport.com
TheMovieReport.com

There is something genuinely moving in Bardem's Rabelaisian poet...

July 30, 2002 Full Review
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Great performances...boring movie.

July 9, 2002 Full Review
Supercala.com

no one can say Schnabel doesn't know how to create a marvelous shot when he wants to. Telling a cohesive story, however, is a skill he has yet to master.

June 10, 2002 Full Review Source: Kalamazoo Gazette
Kalamazoo Gazette

Un cri de coeur...Julian Schnabel's latest work can only be described as one of those soul-stirring cries.

January 26, 2002 Full Review Source: Mixed Reviews

Some may find Before Night Falls boring because of its episodic nature and its lack of a single, overriding plot. But Before Night Falls has some great qualities.

September 20, 2001 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

The film, clocking in at a mere two hours, feels much, much longer.

May 20, 2001 Full Review Source: Needcoffee.com
Needcoffee.com

Avoids many of the tragic biopic pitfalls.

April 16, 2001 Full Review Source: Movieline
Movieline

"PERPLEXING."

April 2, 2001 Full Review

It's as if we've flipped through an album of beautifully proportioned photographs from which we must reconstruct a life, helped along by a performance that seems almost unbearably brave.

March 23, 2001 Full Review Source: Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa Citizen

Sencillamente, una de las mejores y más emotivas cintas del año

March 21, 2001 Full Review Source: Moviola

Schnabel can take on an apparently spent genre like the biopic and produce a pair of films that ooze vitality as they give their subjects a much needed celebration.

March 20, 2001 Full Review Source: Lawrence Journal-World
Lawrence Journal-World

Audience Reviews for Before Night Falls

What a magnificent film. Julian Schnabel pulled off a real tour de force with "Before Night Falls," his second film. Gloriously artistic and gloriously humane, it tells the tragic but also uplifting story of Cuba's boy genius, the poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, who was brutally mistreated by the bizarrely homophobic (one might even say proto-fascist) regime of Fidel Castro, heroically escaped, and then was mowed down by AIDS in the first wave of infections in the late 1980s.

Schnabel and lead actor Javier Bardem worked together beautifully to bring this man's story to life. Bardem is radiant with the joy of a young gay man coming out of the closet and feeling love for the first time. I presume Bardem is straight. To see a straight man find it with himself to feel this is tonic for the soul. Schnabel I believe is also straight. For two straight men to come together to tell the story of this flamboyant gay man and to do it in such a tender and loving way truly amazes.

Some straight men really can feel deep in their soul the anguish and gladness of gay men. Astonishing.

The only sadness to me is that in the past decade Schnabel has not been able to produce more work of this caliber. But we still owe him a real debt of gratitude for giving us this treasure. And my appreciation for Bardem just keeps getting greater. He is moving near the top of my list of Greatest Male Screen Actors in the World. He's got Marlon Brando in him, mixed with a delight in the world that reminds me at times of a butterfly. What an extraordinary mixture. It's as if he's both straight and gay.
February 10, 2012
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

When it comes to biopics, there are very few that stand out as masterpieces or true representations of the real-life counterparts. However, this manages to do just that. Javier Bardemâ??s interpretation of Reinaldo Arenas is amazing. To hear about the real life counterpart and then compare it to the film, itâ??s very hard to tell the difference. The parts of his struggle as a writer and as a person are extremely touching and an original way of approaching a coming of age story (which this is in a lot of ways). The cinematography is amazing, giving Cuba such a beautiful landscape. All the little cameos from actors such as Sean Penn and Johnny Depp are a nice touch, you can tell that they were fans of Arenas and his writing. Itâ??s just an all around great movie.
April 29, 2010
ythelastman89

Super Reviewer

A beautiful film with a strong message, Julian Schnabel is a great film maker and Javier Bardem is brilliant as Reinaldo Arenas! This is a warning from the past and should be on the curriculum!
September 22, 2009
SirPant

Super Reviewer

    1. Reinaldo Arenas: The difference between the Communist system and the capitalist system is that when they give you a kick in the ass, in the Communist system you have to applaud, in the capitalist system, you can scream.
    – Submitted by Frances H (9 months ago)
    1. Reinaldo Arenas: Prisoners are those beings that know everything, especially about other prisoners.
    – Submitted by Frances H (9 months ago)
    1. Reinaldo Arenas: They have beautiful names, they're like flowers. But they're concentration camps for homosexuals, political dissidents, and anyone who wears their pants too tight.
    – Submitted by Frances H (9 months ago)
View all quotes (3)

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