Review: Out of Blue
by Kaleem Aftab
- TORONTO 2018: British director Carol Morley adapts Martin Amis’s Night Train with mixed results
Carol Morley has made a police procedural that seems to have journeyed through a black hole and landed on Earth more than 40 years after the existential thrillers of Nicolas Roeg and the broken anti-heroes essayed by Paul Schrader were popular at the box office. Playing in the Platform section of the Toronto International Film Festival, Out of Blue [+see also:
film profile] is a film heavy on atmosphere and mood that doesn’t take long to reveal that it’s less interested in the investigation into the death of astrophysicist Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer), than it is in the internal strife of the police officer investigating the crime, Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson).
What drives self-destruction when black holes give us life? That is one of the many odd questions at the heart of British director Morley’s adaptation of Martin Amis’s novel Night Train. Given that it’s one of the few Amis books with strong female protagonists, it’s easy to see why Morley would be attracted to it, especially as the suicide and mystery-death themes are also central to her two previous films, the girl’s-school drama The Falling [+see also:
interview: Carol Morley
film profile] and the heart-breaking documentary Dreams of a Life [+see also:
film profile]. Nonetheless, the same problems that make it a minor Amis novel bedevil Morley’s third film, and while she has wisely taken certain aspects of the novel and repackaged them, the result is still overwrought.
Clarkson plays unreliable narrator Hoolihan as a character impenetrable to herself, a nihilist who is on the wagon, until circumstances drive her back to the bottle. She doesn’t want to look inside herself, which is what makes her so good at investigating others. Initially, she suspects the astrophysicist’s boyfriend, Duncan Reynolds (Jonathan Majors), and her colleague Dr Ian Strammi (Toby Jones) of murdering Jennifer. But the investigation leads her to the dead woman’s family, dad Colonel Tom (James Caan), mum Mariam (Jacki Weaver), and her twin brothers (Todd and Brad Mann). Then there is the link to a serial killer who has been inactive for several decades. Things become convoluted as Morley tries to tie these strands together and retain the mystery, and some overzealous plotting is exacerbated by the clunky dialogue that accompanies all of the detective’s realisations. The continual returning to Rockwell’s assessment of black holes and the accompanying graphics showing outer space offer some intrigue, but what does it all mean? Amis didn’t come up with any answers in his novel, and neither does Morley in this abstract noir film that not even the usually excellent Clarkson can save.
Out of Blue was produced by Luc Roeg, Cairo Cannon and Maggie Monteith for the BFI, BBC Films, the Electric Shadow Company, Independent, Cannon and Morley Productions and Dignity, in association with Lipsync Productions, Wellcome and Ellenglaze.
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