Before Night Falls (film)

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Before Night Falls
Before Night Falls poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Julian Schnabel
Produced by Jon Kilik
Screenplay by
  • Cunningham O'Keefe
  • Lázaro Gómez Carriles
  • Julian Schnabel
Based on Before Night Falls
by Reynaldo Arenas
Music by Carter Burwell
  • Xavier Pérez Grobet
  • Guillermo Rosas
Edited by Michael Berenbaum
Grandview Pictures[1]
Distributed by Fine Line Features[1]
Release date
  • September 3, 2000 (2000-09-03) (VIFF)
  • September 14, 2000 (2000-09-14) (TIFF)
  • December 22, 2000 (2000-12-22) (United States)
Running time
133 minutes[1]
Country United States[1]
Language English[1]
Budget $20 million[2]
Box office $8.5 million[3]

Before Night Falls is a 2000 American biographical romantic drama directed by Julian Schnabel. Based on the autobiography of the same name of Reinaldo Arenas, which was published in English in 1993,[4] the screenplay was written by Schnabel, Cunningham O'Keefe and Lázaro Gómez Carriles. The film stars Javier Bardem (who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor), Johnny Depp, Olivier Martinez, Andrea Di Stefano, Santiago Magill and Michael Wincott. The film had its world premiere at the 2000 Venice International Film Festival.[1]


Before Night Falls is based on the autobiography of the same name by Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas. In the film, Arenas, who was openly gay, is born in Oriente in 1943 and raised by his single mother and her parents, who soon move the entire family to Holguín. After moving to Havana in the sixties to continue his studies, Reinaldo begins to explore his ambitions, as well as his sexuality. After receiving an honorary mention in a writing contest, Arenas is offered the chance to publish his first work. Through his work and friendships with other openly gay men (such as Pepe Malas and Tomas Diego), Arenas manages to find himself.

The political climate in Cuba becomes increasingly dangerous, and in the early seventies Arenas is arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting minors, and for publishing abroad without official consent. In the next decade, Arenas is in and out of prison, attempting and failing to leave the country several times.

In 1980, Arenas finally leaves Cuba for the US, starting a new life with his close friend Lazaro Gomez Carriles. A few years later, Arenas is diagnosed with AIDS, and after spending several years suffering he dies in 1990 with the help of Lazaro.



Julian Schnabel got the idea of making Before Night Falls immediately after making Basquiat, however it took four years to actually produce the film.[5]

Bardem spent one-and-a-half months in New York City with Arenas's best friend, Lazaro Gomez Carriles, taking two hours a day to study how Arenas walked and talked.[6]


Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 73% approval rating based on 98 reviews and an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's consensus states: "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."[7] Metacritic reports an 85 out of 100 rating based on 26 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[8]

Roger Ebert of The New York Times gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, stating, "One is reminded a little of the Marquis de Sade, as portrayed in Quills. It was never simply what they wrote, but that, standing outside convention, taunting the authorities, inhabiting impossible lives, they wrote at all."[9] Peter Travers from Rolling Stone awarded the film a full five out of five stars, writing, "In uniting to honor Arenas, Bardem and Schnabel create something extraordinary."[10]

Box office[edit]

The film opened in eight venues on December 22, 2000, and earned $85,230 in its first weekend, ranking #34 in the North American box office.[11] The film received a wide release on February 23, 2001.[12]

Before Night Falls grossed $4.2 million in the US and $4.3 million overseas for a worldwide total of $8.5 million[3] from an estimated $20 million budget.[2]

Awards and nominations[edit]


External links[edit]