At first glance, Comet is a classic tale of boy meets girl, boy and girl date, break up, get back together, and so on. A rom-com in its purest form.
Just minutes in it’s clear that there’s more to this film than the well-trodden romance at its centre. For one thing, it’s structurally captivating, the decidedly non-linear plot skilfully preserving the intrigue of an otherwise bland storyline and illustrating the thesis on life at the movie’s heart. Though it presents a puzzle at first, the constant movement between time periods is never prohibitively confusing, thanks to distinct settings and colour pallets that differentiate them all – from the Van Gogh-esque wallpaper of the opening scene to the pale greys of the Paris hotel. The cinematographer’s inventive use of negative space, aside from its emotional implications, encourages the viewer to associate this scenery with each stage in the relationship, and this way the audience is never left behind.
Overly ambitious effects elements aside, where Comet arguably stumbles is in its aimlessness. The trajectories of the relationship and the film at large are alluded to but never clarified, with the ultimate result that the story comes screeching to a halt in an abrupt and dense entanglement of plot, without any resolution. It takes a few minutes to realise that that’s the point. The sudden ending is proof that neither linear narrative progression nor the truth of the characters’ situation are really important. It’s a daring hypothesis for the film to present, the defiant “so what?” to the increasingly rote consideration “what if it’s all a dream?”, but in execution the film risks alienating viewers by forcing them to do the legwork as the end credits roll.
Not that they’re likely to be dwelling on this conclusion, because lead actors Justin Long and Emmy Rossum are both giving incredibly engaging performances, bringing to life the melodrama of their characters’ relationship with the passion and sincerity of stage actors interpreting Shakespeare. Even in moments of tragedy or intimacy, and there are many, it’s impossible to look away because these two constantly mould their compellingly atypical features into a range of understated expressions. Both Long and Rossum draw subtly upon the tones and mannerisms of better-known film stars, but each is clearly making the role their own, and it’s that which binds together the fragments of this film.
Comet is released nationwide on 3rd July 2015.
Watch the trailer for Comet here: