Carol Morley’s “Out of Blue” is a hypnotic puzzle piece which is so much more than just another whoddunit crime drama. A somewhat overlooked film, “Out of Blue” deserves to be sought out, and experienced in all of its surreal beauty.
“Out of the blue” is an informal English language idiom that describes an event that occurs unexpectedly, without any warning or preparation. It is also the name of Carol Morley’s fascinatingly complex film which has just been released on VOD. Out of all the films that have been released this year so far, “Out of Blue” appears to be one that hasn’t received enough attention that it deserves. Perhaps the reason may lie in how unique the film is. “Out of Blue” is a film that doesn’t fall neatly into any genre, it’s part neo-noir crime mystery with a murder of a young, beautiful blonde being at the center of the film’s narrative.
However, to call “Out of Blue” just another run-of-the-mill crime thriller is to do it a great deal of injustice. “Out of Blue” is like a complex jigsaw puzzle, where it is only after repeat viewings that new pieces that make up the entire picture emerge. We can clearly see the level of devotion and attention that Morley has carried out bringing to life Martin Amis’ novel, “Night Train” which “Out of Blue” is adapted from. “Out of Blue” has a surreal dream-like quality to it which only adds to its appeal. Many have compared “Out of Blue” to the likes of David Lynch‘s “Blue Velvet” (1986) or Roman Polanski‘s “Chinatown” (1974), and while those comparisons are just, but Morey’s “Out of Blue” is quite unlike any other film out there. It’s mysterious, thought-provoking and refreshing to watch.
The film follows Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson), an unconventional New Orleans cop with a dark past and a drinking problem. She’s as tough as old leather and takes no shit from anyone, just like Nicole Kidman‘s Erin Bell in “Destroyer” (another overlooked masterpiece that was released earlier this year). Mike is set with the task of solving the murder of renowned astrophysicist Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer), a black hole expert found shot to death in her observatory. What should be a straight forward case soon reveals itself to be a complex web of lies and secrets with everyone involved harboring their own secret pasts.
“Patricia Clarkson’s central performance as Mike is what holds this film together, we see the pain and anger in her eyes. It’s not what she says, but how she says it and what she restrains herself from saying. Clarkson’s performance is captivating to watch”
Soon Mike tumbles down the rabbit hole of the disturbing case, where she begins questioning her own sanity as she grabbles with increasingly existential questions of quantum mechanics, parallel universes, and exploding stars. If she can somehow find the answer to cosmic secrets the perhaps she’ll discover the key to unraveling the crime.
Patricia Clarkson’s central performance as Mike is what holds this film together, we see the pain and anger in her eyes. It’s not what she says, but how she says it and what she restrains herself from saying. Clarkson’s performance is captivating to watch as her character slowly endures an existential crisis, and while on the surface the character of Mike has a tough exterior but Morley shows us just how flawed and vulnerable this character in the smallest of ways.
The supporting cast also delivers stellar performances. Mamie Gummer is splendid as Jennifer Rockwell, full of life and charm. James Caan delivers an excellent performance of the untrustworthy Col Tom Rockwell (Jennifer’s domineering father). There are also the likes of Toby Jones as Jennifer’s colleague, Prof Ian Strammi who delights in debates on Schrödinger’s cat. As well as Jonathan Majors who plays Jennifer’s boyfriend, Duncan and delivers a strong performance. And lastly, there’s Jacki Weaver who literally steals scenes with her performance of Jennifer’s somewhat eccentric mother, Miriam Rockwell.
“It’s best to approach “Out of Blue” as an experimental film, which is best enjoyed away from distractions so you can allocate the time required to view this film alone. It’s slow-paced and confusing, but that’s what makes the film so distinctive.”
Like David Robert Mitchell‘s complex, Hollywood conspiracy neo-noir “Under the Silver Lake”(2018), “Out of Blue” will most likely divide audiences. Those with very little patience will be frustrated by the film’s reveal of the ‘murderer’ but like “Under the Silver Lake” the quest to solve the mystery is not really what the character’s journey is about. This is about a quest of self-discovery and finding our position in the universe.
Whereas ‘Under the Silver Lake’ came across as somewhat cynical and misanthropic about the concept of the journey of self-discovery, “Out of Blue”‘s conclusion feels far more comforting and optimistic. There is hope for us all, we do have our own unique place in the make-up of the universe. We all do belong somewhere, to some time, to someone.
It’s best to approach “Out of Blue” as an experimental film, which is best enjoyed away from distractions so you can allocate the time required to view this film alone. It’s slow-paced and confusing, but that’s what makes the film so distinctive. Many critics have been quick to judge this film, but perhaps they have missed the film’s purpose. This is a philosophical debate disguised as a crime drama, and that’s why it needs to be sought out and to be experienced.