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Night on Earth (1991) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • A collection of five stories involving cab drivers in five different cities. Los Angeles - A talent agent for the movies discovers her cab driver would be perfect to cast, but the cabbie is reluctant to give up her solid cab driver's career. New York - An immigrant cab driver is continually lost in a city and culture he doesn't understand. Paris - A blind girl takes a ride with a cab driver from the Ivory Coast and they talk about life and blindness. Rome - A gregarious cabbie picks up an ailing man and virtually talks him to death. Helsinki - an industrial worker gets laid off and he and his compatriots discuss the bleakness and unfairness of love and life and death.

  • An anthology of 5 different cab drivers in 5 American and European cities and their remarkable fares on the same eventful night.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • Los Angeles: As evening falls, sassy tomboy cabby Corky (Winona Ryder) picks up hot-shot Hollywood executive Victoria Snelling (Gena Rowlands) from the airport, and as Corky drives, Victoria tries to conduct business over the phone. Despite their extreme differences socially, the two develop a certain connection. Sometime during the ride Victoria, who is evidently a talent scout or casting director, discovers that Corky would be ideal for a part in a movie she is casting, but Corky rejects the offer, as she has plans to become a mechanic.

    New York: Helmut Grokenberger (Armin Mueller-Stahl), a mild East German immigrant who was once a clown in his home country, now works in New York as a taxi driver. He picks up a passenger named YoYo (Giancarlo Esposito), a brash, streetwise young man and attempts to drive him to Brooklyn. Helmut doesn't really know how to drive with an automatic transmission so he allows YoYo to drive. On their way, they pick up YoYo's argumentative sister-in-law Angela (Rosie Perez). The story revolves around Helmut's attempts to understand and become a part of the culture of New York.

    Paris: A blind woman (Béatrice Dalle) goes for a ride at night with a driver (Isaach De Bankolé) who hails from the Ivory Coast. They both take some verbal jabs at each other during the ride. The driver asks his passenger what it's like to be blind and she attempts to explain to him, but their cultural differences and differences of life experience make things difficult. An ironic twist at the end of the segment turns upon a French pun near the beginning of it: When the driver states his nationality as "Ivoirien," some other Africans mock him with the punning phrase "Y voit rien" (he sees nothing there). After he drops off his blind passenger, he feels fascinated by her and gazes in her direction. This inattention to driving causes him to crash into another car, whose driver angrily accuses him of being blind.

    Rome: In the wee morning hours, a very eccentric cabbie (Roberto Benigni) picks up a priest (Paolo Bonacelli). As he drives, he starts to confess his sins. Much to priest's discomfort, he goes into great detail about how he discovered his sexuality first with a pumpkin and then with a sheep, then details a love affair he had with his brother's wife. The already-ailing priest is shocked by the lurid confession, and promptly has a fatal heart attack, leaving the cabbie with a very troubling situation.

    Helsinki: After an evening spent drinking heavily, three workers, one of whom has just been laid off (Kari Väänänen, Sakari Kuosmanen, and Tomi Salmela), climb into a cab to return home. On the way to drop them off the workers talk about what an awful fix their now-unconscious friend is in, by being out of work and having to face a divorce and a pregnant daughter. The driver Mika (Matti Pellonpää) then tells them all the saddest story they have ever heard. The workers are terribly moved and depressed by the story, and even become unsympathetic toward their drunken, laid-off companion. As they arrive home, the sun is beginning to rise on a new day. But no one sees change in their stupering friend from his day to day life.

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