Out of Blue

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Carol Morley

Starring

Mamie Gummer Patricia Clarkson Toby Jones

Anticipation.

Morley’s Dreams of a Life is a very good film, so we always anticipate something interesting from her.

Enjoyment.

This obtuse, uninvolving murder mystery is an exercise in alienation.

In Retrospect.

A twisted car wreckage, but without the element of voyeuristic fascination.

Patricia Clarkson is dangerously out of her depth in Carol Morley’s mind-boggling detective noir.

Genre – you either take it at face value and play by the rules, or get the hell out of the kitchen. Out of Blue is the latest feature from British director Carol Morley, her follow-up to 2014’s intriguing but ineffective exploration of mass hysteria, The Falling.

This one is a laconic, self-consciously moody southern policier with designs on the celestial infinite. It beckons, perhaps unwisely, the swaddling comfort blanket of genre with one hand while violently repelling it with the other. Bravo to the director for doubling down on light experimentation and once more embracing an unconventional storytelling mode, but it’s hard to sugar coat the fact that the resulting film is an ugly, perplexing catastrophe.

The usually reliable Patricia Clarkson is miscast as insular Detective Mike Hoolihan. She struggles to find an emotional foothold in a depressive, apparently brilliant loner whose temperament alters radically (and randomly) from scene to scene. The body of rockabilly astrophysicist Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer) is found next to a telescope, and Hoolihan sets about casing out the various creeps and carousers in the dead girl’s life.

The essential mystery of whodunit becomes a dull excuse for characters to engage in dreary, humourless philosophical discourse. Schrödinger’s cat is evoked every five minutes in a cheap attempt to bolster the film’s intellectual bonafides. The twist of having having a woman play the regulation grizzled male protagonist from classical noir comes across as a weak gimmick, particularly in an entirely superfluous sequence where Clarkson swaggerers uncomfortably around a topless bar.

It’s never a good sign when you’re watching a movie and the only thought in your head is, ‘How on earth did this get the green light?’, but such is the case with Out of Blue. If there’s a glimmer of hope, it’s that this might not be the worst Martin Amis adaptation of recent times – that dubious honour goes to the execrable London Fields. Yet the race to the bottom is way too close for comfort.

Published 27 Mar 2019

Tags: Carol Morley Martin Amis Patricia Clarkson Toby Jones

Anticipation.

Morley’s Dreams of a Life is a very good film, so we always anticipate something interesting from her.

Enjoyment.

This obtuse, uninvolving murder mystery is an exercise in alienation.

In Retrospect.

A twisted car wreckage, but without the element of voyeuristic fascination.

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