Review: OUT OF BLUE Isn’t Both Dead And Alive — It’s Just Dead

out of blue hero
Patricia Clarkson as “Detective Mike Hoolihan” in Carol Morley’s Out of Blue. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

Out of Blue is a new mystery drama film written and directed by Carol Morey and starring Patricia Clarkson. The movie tells the story of a detective who, while investigating the death of one of the world’s leading astrophysicists, makes some shocking discoveries about herself and her understanding of the world. The film made its debut at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival.

The story of the movie is overly convoluted, yet it still somehow follows the tropes of a pulpy neo-noir to the beat. The film thinks it is more intelligent than it actually is, the end result being a story that is incomprehensible at times and frustratingly bland at others. The core mystery, the death of an astronomer, is never really that much of a mystery, as it is easy to see where it is going to be heading, especially if you have a basic understanding of some of the concepts that drive the movie.

One of those concepts is the idea of Schrodinger’s Cat. Schrodinger’s Cat is a thought experiment that is a really complicated way of saying that observation can affect the outcome of events. Instead, the film lingers on the elements based more in quantum physics, involving the subject being both dead and alive, to create a shoddily-written commentary on the afterlife. Because of this, the progression of the story, particularly the ending, becomes extremely obvious.

out of blue clarkson
Patricia Clarkson as “Detective Mike Hoolihan” in Carol Morley’s Out of Blue. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

Perhaps the biggest issue with the movie is its lack of interesting character development. The protagonist, Detective Mike Hoolihan, isn’t compelling at all. She is a very flat and distant character that doesn’t really have enough time to experience the growth over the course of the film that would make her sympathetic. Additionally, the supporting characters aren’t particularly interesting, and having a fun and zany cast of suspects is part of what makes a mystery movie like this successful.

Apparently the novel on which this movie is based is heavily satirical and almost comedic. Why, then, is the film adaptation so ridiculously bleak? The level of darkness in the movie, combined with the convoluted attempts at including science in the storyline, make the film almost unbearable to watch. Even though the runtime is less than two hours, it feels like much more because the script is crawling along at a snail’s pace.

out of blue work
Patricia Clarkson as “Detective Mike Hoolihan” in Carol Morley’s Out of Blue. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

On a technical level, the movie was mostly bland and disappointing. For a film with such lofty themes involving the beauty of the cosmos, you would think that the movie would be beautiful to watch. Instead, the film’s visual style is a combination of the dark and gritty feel typical of a neo-noir movie and a surreal and dreamlike quality brought about by some of the more fantastical elements. The two didn’t mesh particularly well, and the film suffered as a result.

Almost certainly the movie’s biggest success is its performances. Patricia Clarkson’s lead performance is very strong, and although she isn’t given enough to do in terms of emotion or range, she does lend a bit of spice to the otherwise uninteresting character. As for the supporting cast, no one is given adequate time to shine. Even some of the most talented character actors working today, like Toby Jones, make an appearance and are unable to contribute to the film in any particularly meaningful way.

Overall, Out of Blue was a very disappointing movie. Due to a combination of a generic plot, convoluted science, and bland execution, the film just isn’t particularly enjoyable to watch.

Out of Blue opens in theaters and on VOD March 22.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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