What’s the secret to a long marriage? Extra-marital affairs, according to Maria. Richard, her husband, discovers one of her infidelities in a flurry of texts while she is showering. Following a nonchalant defence of her actions, she leaves to spend the night at a hotel across the road, where she’s visited by exes and a younger Richard.

Like a magical realist A Christmas Carol for couples two decades into a marriage, On a Magical Night is a playful and adult examination of long-term commitment. Chiara Mastroianni’s Maria is logical to a fault: she and Richard have become more like siblings, so adultery preserves the marriage. Where the younger Richard (Vincent Lacoste) was expressive and impulsive, the man he’s become (Benjamin Biolay) is stoic and loving. He seems dependable – he hasn’t cheated – but lacks a fire Maria clearly craves.

It works best as an analysis of your ‘best years’. If this is to be the end of their relationship, was it worth the investment? But its internal structure undermines some of its profundity. If everything is happening in Maria’s head, does checking in with Richard’s former flame actually mean anything, or is it just Maria’s projection of her? While the mechanics are not the film’s focus, their flimsiness detracts from what could be deep ruminations on what it means to be happy sharing life with a partner.

It stays afloat thanks to Biolay and Mastroianni. They imbue their characters with such different qualities – he’s hushed and gentle; she’s independent and bold. Told predominantly within two rooms, they show different kinds of vulnerability too, where Maria lashes out while Richard timidly accepts what’s happening.

There’s plenty of warmth, humour, and relationship philosophy in On a Magical Night to mull over, but its in-world storytelling doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.


Available to watch on: Curzon Home Cinema


CAST: Chiara Mastroianni, Benjamin Biolay, Vincent Lacoste, Camille Cottin, Carole Bouquet

DIRECTORChristophe Honoré

WRITER: Christophe Honoré

SYNOPSIS: After 20 years of marriage, Maria decides to leave. She moves to the room 212 of the hotel opposite her marital home. From there, Maria can scrutinise her apartment, her husband, her wedding. She wonders if she has made the right decision.