Out of Blue by Carol Morley, the director of Dreams of a Life, is a metaphysical neo-noir, a Schrödinger’s cat of a film.
The Darknessby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Out of Blue stars Patricia Clarkson, dressed, coiffed and acting strangely like Nicole Kidman in Destroyer, as yet another tough but troubled, alcoholic police detective – this time living in Louisiana and named Mike Hoolihan. It’s loosely inspired by Martin Amis’s novel Night Train and shot like a neo-noir.
Hoolihan is investigating the violent murder, or maybe suicide, of a beautiful blonde astrophysicist (Mamie Gummer) in her planetarium. She was videoed expounding her way-out theories on black holes and stardust just before her death. Murder suspects include her timid fellow scientist (Toby Jones, inexplicably English), her (maybe ex) boyfriend (Jonathan Majors), her wealthy parents (James Caan and Jacki Weaver), her twin brothers and a serial killer from the past, the ’38 Calibre Killer’.
Hoolihan lives alone with her cat. She is still recovering from some kind of childhood trauma that she can’t remember. There are characters she talks to that come and go and may or may not actually exist, also a shoe and a scarf that she sees that may not be there. She wears a blue bead round her neck that may be significant. Theories about Schrödinger’s cat and the darkness of the cosmos are mixed up with a possible personality disorder or repressed memory syndrome. The resulting mishmash of vague metaphysical and psychological ideas and clues is set within Louisiana’s unique multicultural social mix and landscape…
Many shots are beautifully framed, almost poetic in their artifice. But overall, it’s a police procedural that aims to be something more than that by adding another ethereal dimension: it has a slow, dreamlike, unreal atmosphere that becomes irritatingly tedious. The clunky dialogue is spoken Mogadon-slowly and there’s no chemistry between characters, or characterisation, to breath life into it. In Out of Blue, gifted British director Carol Morley (Dreams of a Life, The Falling) making an ambitious film in a US setting could have had an intriguing result but sadly it’s a confusing test of a viewer’s patience.
Out of Blue is released on 29 March 2019 in the UK.