GFF19: Out of Blue

Carol Morley’s dreamlike noir is full of ambition, but never quite works despite a commendable effort from star Patricia Clarkson

Film Review by Iana Murray | 01 Mar 2019
  • Out of Blue
Film title: Out of Blue
Director: Carol Morley
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Toby Jones, Jacki Weaver, James Caan
Release date: 29 Mar
Certificate: 15

Out of Blue feels like a dream, but it’s the kind of dream where you’re aware that something isn’t right. Tackling ideas as wide-reaching as the cosmos, serial killers and trauma, all its pieces don’t quite fit into place, and those pieces feel clumsily assembled together. 

The camera is pointed at the cosmos first, as astrophysicist Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer) is giving a lecture on a rooftop observatory. It's not long before she becomes the noir's enigma of a victim: the next morning her body is found with a shot to the head and her face missing. The dectective on the case is Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson), a recovering alcoholic married to her work. "My whole life's been homicide," she says, and quickly she becomes consumed by the mystery behind Jennifer's death. Is it the work of a re-emerging serial killer? Or, with Jennifer's fascination with the multi-verse, is there a cosmic meaning behind her death?

This is a convoluted case, and the film messily tries to tie its many branching threads together in a third-act revelation bolstered by a screenplay that is sometimes downright silly. The audience is treated like a child, holding our hand through explanations as basic as primary school science – as if we’re supposed to believe the alibi of a student who was up all night speaking to her professor about Schrödinger’s cat of all things. Characters communicate in shoddy cliches, and the many scientists of its cast act like imitations of what they think a real person is. 

Patricia Clarkson is at the top of her game, but Out of Blue is about as convincing as a CSI episode; no one could make it work. Director Carol Morley’s ambitions aim for the stars, but the film never soars.

Out of Blue had its Scottish premiere at Glasgow Film Festival and is released 29 Mar by Picturehouse