Writer: Carol Morley
Cast: Patricia Clarkson, Mamie Gummer, Toby Jones, James Caan, Jonathan Majors, Jackie Weaver, Brad Mann, Todd Mann
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 110mins
What’s the story: When a noted astrophysicist is murdered, troubled detective Mike Hoolihan (Clarkson) investigates the case.
What’s the verdict: Carol Morley’s 2014 feature The Falling was equally lauded and lambasted. History is unlikely to repeat itself with her latest movie. Out of Blue won’t receive any unequivocal praise.
An indigestible hotchpotch of neo-noir trappings crudely spliced with ruminations on quantum physics, its false notes echo across the multiverse.
Based on Martin Amis’ 1997 novel Night Train, we open on a dying star, before the plot zooms in on astrophysicist Dr Jennifer Rockwell (Gummer). Rockwell explains we are all formed from ancient stardust, before she turns up dead, brutally shot in the face.
Detective Mike Hoolihan (Clarkson) leads the investigation and is not wanting for suspects. Could the killer be twitchy, filthy fingernailed Professor Strammi (Jones)? Or Rockwell’s beau (Majors) or war hero dad ‘Colonel’ Tom (Caan). Or one of her snotty, privileged brothers (Brad and Todd Mann)? Probably not her agitated mother (Weaver)?
And could Jennifer’s murder have anything to do with an unsolved series of slayings years before?
Adding to the complication is, while we’re all made of stardust, Mike is frequently away with the fairies. Haunted by a dark, amnesiac past, she is prone to imagined conversations and (in a callback to The Falling) fainting spells.
The filmmaking MO here was clearly, “If less is more, just think how much Morley would be.” Against detective genre tropes, the director doubles down on her impressionistic visuals and abstract emotions. But, she cannot wrestle this into a compellingly paced whole, even with Clint Mansell’s ethereal score papering the cracks.
Yet, this is thematically fitting. Time becomes relative watching the annoyingly titled Out of Blue; it may be 110mins, but it feels far longer.
Equally injurious is Clarkson, a great actress too rarely given lead roles, delivers a nuanced performance totally underserved by sloppy writing. Clunky dialogue and odd decisions (this intelligent woman has never heard of Schrödinger’s Cat) sink the good work Clarkson brings.
While we’re all pondering, in some ways a script is like Schrödinger’s thought experiment. The feline could be alive or dead, the answer only arriving when the finished film opens. Out of Blue is a stiff moggy.