The popular stereotype is that growing up is hell. I almost never hear anyone talk about high school fondly, and movies about high school and college are typically about the trials and tribulations that come with trying to fit in and feeling out one’s independence. But still, here and there, there are halcyon days that are irreplicable once “adulthood,” as it were, kicks in. American Honey is the last movie that tapped into this feeling with success; it’s not happiness without strings attached, and it’s not happiness that’s permanent, but it’s the last time (or so it feels) that that happiness will be uncomplicated. All These Sleepless Nights, directed by Michal Marczak, performs a similarly delicate balancing act. It’s an object of sense memory, moments and sequences that evoke the feeling of carefree youth.
The movie opens with this card: “Reminiscence Bump (in psychology): The tendency of our minds to hold onto a greater number of memories from adolescence and early adulthood than any other period of our lives.” How much you enjoy what comes next will largely depend on how much time you’re willing to spend with those memories. Beyond the way Marczak can tap into sensation through motion and sound (as well as full beats of darkness between shots), there’s not too much by way of a story. This isn’t a comment on the love story that forms the crux of the narrative, but rather a symptom of the film’s place halfway between drama and documentary. Life doesn’t move in clearly delineable or necessarily satisfying patterns, and while there’s an arc to the movie, the difference between Point A and Point B is negligible. In other words, it’s all about the experience of getting from one point to the other, not the ground that was covered.
Krzysztof Baginski (as himself) is the planet around which the rest of the movie orbits. There’s his best friend Michal (Michal Huszcza), and Michal’s current and Krzysztof’s soon-to-be girlfriend Eva (Eva Lebuef), who are pulled in and out of his life like comets, sometimes passing through, sometimes colliding. The best thing I can say about it all is that it feels true to life; there’s no easy way to explain the beginnings and endings of relationships, nor any easy way to navigate them. The worst is that — for all that those senses are universal — the narrative is still a specific one. The carelessness that comes with youth is a little exaggeratedly true here, insomuch as Krzysztof and his friends don’t have the end of summer to mark the finishing point of their adventures; it’ll go on for as long as they can manage it, without worrying about work or money or touching on the class drama that made American Honey particularly striking.
All These Sleepless Nights is an hour and forty minutes of staying out too late. Maybe you’ll be too tired for it, maybe you won’t, but it’s still a sensation that’s almost impossible to replicate without actually living through it, and the fact that Marczak pulls it off is a feat in itself.