Tribeca 2020 Review: The Unseen Costs of Labor Are Richly Observed in Loira Limbal’s “Through the Night”

“This is the way the world is set up at this point,” Deloris “Nunu” Hogan can be heard saying in “Through the Night,” though she is careful not to let her frustration show as the demand for her business has become a mixed blessing. As one of the co-owners and operators of Dee’s Tots Childcare in New Rochelle, New York with her husband Patrick, she’s had a front row seat to the unforgiving working schedules of parents trying to make ends meet, watching over their children at all hours of the day to accommodate night shifts and parents who work multiple jobs and while business is booming, enough so that Nunu and Patrick have been able to afford a home, there’s some cruel irony that it primarily houses the kids they care for with no separation between their work and their lives.

It’s hard to visualize how the system has so thoroughly failed the working class, but Loira Limbal brings the abstract into arrestingly human terms in “Through the Night,” which lets you see the world – the whole world – through Nunu’s eyes. Having barely any time to attend to her own children, the kindly caretaker of 25 years caters to a diverse array of families who had sacrificed the time they spend with their kids to keep a roof over their heads, gradually coming to focus on two single mothers – Shanona, a nurse who spends 7 pm to 7 am in the pediatric ward of a local hospital with kids Naima and Noah often curled up on mats on Nunu’s floor to sleep, and Marisol, who desperately tries to find breaks between her multiple jobs as a supermarket employee and dental assistant for her daughters Diana and Yvette.

Notably, there’s never anger about the arrangements they have to make, likely knowing any complaints would fall on deaf ears or simply that it wouldn’t occur to such strong women, but Limbal lets the absurdity of their situations settle in, following Marisol to a job interview where the starting hourly wage will surely require her to get another gig though it would eat up too much to apply for another or spying on Shanona worrying about her Naima’s breathing patterns while giving her a goodnight call from the hospital she works at. Nunu has her own health to be concerned about, visiting a doctor throughout the film to look into tendinitis it appears she’s developed from being so active, and as you watch everyone put the needs of others before themselves, you ask when will anybody look after them in the same way.

Taking course over a year on screen (though it was filmed in a two-year period), “Through the Night” allows one to feel as close to the subjects as the Hogans do to their clients, with the natural rhythm of holidays and other markers of the passage of time, as well as Naiti Gamez’s airy yet intimate cinematography, allowing for both a familiarity that is easily relatable no matter what your circumstances are and a recognition of the struggle that all involved are engaged in on a daily basis. Although Nunu preaches to the kids she cares for “sharing is caring,” those lessons obviously haven’t reached the adults it needs to and while laying bare societal inequities in ways they can’t be ignored, “Through the Night” reveals the kinds of heroes that should be celebrated far more.

“Through the Night” does not yet have U.S. distribution.