Set in Nicaragua, “Stars at Noon” is essentially about the experience of an American journalist, or so she hopes to be, living in a country suffering from political unrest. Claire Denis chose not to delve into the politics of the state. We get a sense of the crisis, but it’s never truly what the film is about. Denis’s film is neither political nor a thrilling adventure about how a journalist tried to escape Nicaragua. It is all about understanding the characters and the experience of living with uncertainty. “Stars at Noon” does not aim to hop from one plot point to another; it has a meandering quality that appeals to a selected section of the audience.
‘Stars At Noon’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
The COVID-19 precautionary measures indicate that the story is set in recent times. We are introduced to an American journalist, Trish, who lives in Nicaragua. Trish wanted to make meaningful journalistic contributions, which landed her in Central America. She had worked on reports of kidnappings and hangings in Nicaragua, but that did not help her achieve the success she was looking for. She tried contacting the American magazine she used to contribute to, but they were not interested in covering the political turmoil in Central America. Trish resorted to selling her body for money and favors to survive in the foreign land. She sleeps with Sub Lieutenant Veraguas, who helped Trish survive in Nicaragua in exchange for sex. Though the authorities now doubted Trish’s motive because she clearly was not the journalist, she said she was and had gotten herself into a political mess. Her passport was taken away from her, and she could not buy a ticket to return home. She had to leave the country, but she did not know how.
Trish would treat herself to whatever she found lying around. Be it the supplies in a hotel washroom, toilet paper rolls, or even buffet food meant only for hotel guests. She met Daniel, an Englishman, during the closing hours at the bar of a hotel. She enjoyed his company and offered to sleep with him for money. There was immediate sexual tension between the two. Unlike the dispassionate intimacy, she usually engaged in, spending the night with Daniel was pleasurable. She did not know much about Daniel, only that he worked for an oil company and was sent to Nicaragua on their behalf. Through their conversation, we figured out how they both envisioned the future of Nicaragua differently. Trish believed that the country could not live through the upcoming democratic election, and the constant delay in the election only proved her point, whereas Daniel firmly believed that there were influential people who would not allow the country to fall back to authoritarianism. Daniel had been talking business with a Costa Rican police officer without even knowing his real identity. Trish knew the man, and Daniel eventually realized it was all a scheme to get hold of him.
Trish barely knew the man she was with, but his presence was almost addictive to her, and the fact that he could help her escape the country made the arrangement all the more appealing. While going through his shaving kit in the hotel washroom, Trish found a gun. She had no idea what his true intentions were, but for some reason, she trusted him to take care of her if the situation ever got worse.
‘Stars At Noon’ Ending Explained: How Did Trish Manage To Leave The Country?
It is later established that Daniel was in direct conflict with the power holders in Nicaragua, and as a result, Trish was no longer safe. Daniel was forced to check out of his hotel, and he started staying at the motel that Trish lived in. His presence caused unrest near the motel, and they decided to leave in a stolen car. As the two fled the situation, Trish felt that this was their honeymoon. She romanticized the close escape and the tension of running away with a man she barely knew but had fallen in love with. Even in the chaos, the lovers could barely take their hands off each other as they watched the stars at noon through the window of the car.
Trish went to a nearby café after spending the night at a motel. She met a CIA officer there who wanted her to cooperate with them and help the authorities get hold of Daniel. The CIA had negotiated a deal for her, but Trish refused to cooperate and decided to flee the country with Daniel. Trish did not have a passport, and the only way to escape without valid identity proof was to take the smuggling route. They gave up their stolen car, watch, and cash to escape the country, but the boat was attacked, and the boatmen were shot dead. Daniel suffered a minor injury, but the two managed to walk through the nearby forest and came across an abandoned building. A man silently watched the lovers stay the night there. The next morning, guards entered the building and got hold of Daniel. The CIA officer, accompanied by the Costa Rican police officer, offers Trish another chance to get her life back in exchange for signing documents and allowing the smooth handover of Daniel to the authorities.
Trish gets her passport back and the freedom to return home. She thanked the sub-lieutenant for always helping her, even though there were days when the thought of being with him forced her to lock herself in the bathroom. Nonetheless, it was her time to go home, away from the life she was compelled to live in Nicaragua.
Most of Trish’s stay in Nicaragua was transactional. Her body was the object of the transaction, and in return, she was supplied with basic necessities and cash. Her job did not require her to stay, she clearly was not a journalist sent on a mission to cover the Nicaragua situation, but she went there because she was trying to find meaning in the work that she did. As a foreign woman living in a country suffering from a political crisis, Trish had to live through situations that taught her to only look out for herself. She wanted to leave, but she was not allowed to because of the one article she wrote about kidnappings and hangings in Nicaragua before the elections. She did not have USD to buy herself a plane ticket, and the people she knew refused to help her. They stated that she could only leave after the elections to guarantee that no other disturbing information was published. She feared spending her life trapped with the exploitative glances of the army men. Daniel was her escape plan, but even that turned out to be a mistake, though she did not regret it. The Department of Defense wanted her because of her involvement with Daniel. As a British man, Daniel’s political involvement landed him in trouble. Trish’s nationality forced the CIA to intervene, and they requested her to cooperate in handing over Daniel to the authorities. While Trish romanticized the idea of a rebellious lover fighting for her love in a war-torn nation, in the end, it was all about survival. The arrest of Daniel brought back certainty in her life. In a way, meeting Daniel turned out to be advantageous for her. What she was previously denied was offered to her in the end.
The film is based on Denis Johnson’s 1986 novel of the same name. Due to financial constraints, Claire Denis chose to set the story in the present instead of the 1984 Nicaraguan revolution. The narrative of the film tries to explore Trish’s stay in Nicaragua, which was driven by self-interest, transaction, failure, and love. The meanderings of “Stars at Noon” is inviting, but the lack of exploration of the politics leaves a taste of disappointment.
“Stars at Noon” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Claire Denis.