Runtime: 88 minutes
Directors: Samantha Soule, David Talbott
Writers: Samantha Soule, David Talbott
Cast: Chris Stack, Samantha Soule, Merritt Wever, Dale Soules, McCaleb Burnett, Lovell Holder, Addie Johnson Talbott, Will Pullen
By Joan Amenn
Grief is a mysterious thing. It can linger below the surface of our awareness like driftwood bobbing under the edge of a wave. “Midday Black, Midnight Blue” (2022) is a study of one man’s near envelopment in loss and his slow climb out into light again.
Shot on Whidbey Island in Washington State, the film captures the variable weather the area is known for as a metaphor for the clouds that linger over Ian’s (Chris Stack) psyche after the tragic loss of the love of his life, Liv (Samantha Soule). The story of their relationship is complicated with the fact that Liv is pregnant but the child is not Ian’s. Also, she has unresolved trauma from a difficult childhood that she and her sisters carefully refer to under the guise of jokes and good-natured teasing. Ian relives scenes from their life together continually so that reality and the past blur in his mind. He clearly is sinking under depression and guilt over her death but there doesn’t seem to be anyone who can reach him.
Although beautifully shot with plenty of scenic views of ocean and wilderness, the film lacks a depth of emotion chiefly because of there is little chemistry between the two main characters. This can partially be attributed to the fact that Ian’s obsessive love is pursuing a ghost, but Soule as Liv is a bit too removed, too distant for the viewer to feel for her. We never get to know if she is even happy to be pregnant but it seems as if her relationship with the father of her child was not a lasting one. She remains an enigma and puzzles are difficult to sympathize with or mourn for. Stack as Ian is wonderful as a man clutching at dream-like shards of his past life, trying to exist only in his memories.
“Midday Black, Midnight Blue” is an elegiac story of life derailed by grief but the plot offers nothing tangible as relief for poor Ian. By the end of the film, we are not certain if he will be able to start over even though Liv’s sister Beth (Merritt Wever) appears to share in his feelings and might be a solace to him. He certainly deserves to find happiness but “Midday Black, Midnight Blue” seems to have him stuck in endless misery that becomes a slog which is a shame because his character deserves better.