Out of Blue
16th October 2018 6.00pm at Picturehouse Central
British director, screenwriter and producer Carol Morley is best known for her perceptive work regarding the intimacies and particular mysteries of lives, which can be found most potently in the 2011 drama-documentary Dreams of a Life and in the fictional narrative The Falling (2014).
Morley’s latest feature, Out of Blue, is set in present-day New Orleans, Louisiana, and loosely based on Martin Amis’s 1997 novel Night Train. The movie begins with a pretty piano piece, over which astrophysicist Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer) reflects existentially on mankind and the universe: “The catastrophic death of a star means life for us,” is followed by “there is much we can’t see, detect or comprehend, yet we spend our lives trying to get to the heart of this dark energy, this dark matter” – a metaphorical premonition to the film. Jennifer is soon after found brutally murdered at the observation centre. Leading the forensic investigation is recovering alcoholic homicide detective Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson), who is continually disturbed by phantom visions and haunting déjà vu. Several potential perpetrators are suspects in the murder case too, from Jennifer’s colleague – boyfriend Duncan Reynolds (Jonathan Majors) and fellow academic Ian Strammi – an anagram of Martin Amis – portrayed by Toby Jones, as well as the astrophysicist’s strange family, in particular her mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (James Caan). There is an ongoing connection to previous murdered victims in the 1960s that Hoolihan tries to connect the dots with, but the more long-winded the plot becomes, the more dull it feels. By the denouement, interest is far removed, and there is only anticipation for the final credits.
Stylistically, Morley’s movie has a vintage early 2000s feel to it, like a feature-length CSI episode. Female subjectivity and the “investigative gaze” are not enough to save it and arguably the main redeeming feature of Out of Blue is Clint Mansell’s score, which is atmospheric and beautifully crafted. The film has potential, but it’s unfortunately lost in the derivative nature of archetypal noir detective stories, becoming awkwardly convoluted with its muddle of forensic investigation and cosmic theories, making viewers ever more lost in an enveloping and dull black hole.
Out of Blue is released nationwide on 22nd March 2019.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.