Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Out of Blue – a dark and quirky cosmic mystery (QFT from 29 March)

A homicide under the dome of an inner-city New Orleans observatory sparks an investigation that examines cosmic mystery through the lens of police procedure as the victim’s close friends and family come under Detective Mike Hoolihan spotlight.

In Out of Blue, Patricia Clarkson plays the recovering alcoholic whose own grip on her late 1990’s reality is a little shaky. As she begins to investigate the death of Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer) she confronts the black holes in her own past.

Director and screenwriter Carol Morley stirs up a feeling of interconnectedness – without the zaniness of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently – and lets it linger right until the closing moments of this surprisingly dark movie.

Half way through the film the cause of death is resolved. But while that case is closed, Hoolihan aligns with Rockwell’s boyfriend Duncan (Jonathan Majors) and can’t rest until she finds out why, rather than how, the young scientist died.

Toby Jones appears as the observatory’s English manager, with hair as wild and dodgy as his alibi. But it’s the female characters who are the richest and most rewarding. Jacki Weaver (playing Rockwell’s mother) is marvellous as she escapes the gravitational pull of her husband. Yolonda Ross’s young reporter holds up a mirror to Hoolihan’s character flaws. (Later on, some holds up an actual mirror to her.)

Despite being adapted from Martin Amis’ novel Night Train, the dialogue isn’t heavy. The audience are trusted to hold the unexplained flickering lights and disappearing objects and figure out whether they are significant. Clint Mansell’s soundtrack is gentle and matches the vintage clothes and props that litter the film’s locations.

For a long time it’s hard to pin down exactly what genre Out of Blue should fit into. That’s a strength of the storytelling, and a hazard of modern cinema which can usually be so easily (and unnecessarily) pigeonholed.

A quirky film that mixes starry awe and wonder with police procedure and spaced-out confusion, Out of Blue asks how trauma affects what we perceive as our reality? What is at the dark heart of this black hole of a mystery? It’s science rather than philosophy that states:
“The death of a star brings new life to the universe. We are all stardust.”

Out of Blue is being screened in Queen’s Film Theatre between Friday 29 March and Thursday 4 April.

No comments: