Let’s look up.
The Vast of Night is another movie that technically premiered in 2019, but wasn’t widely available until 2020, so I’m counting it as a 2020 release.
This is the first major outing for director Andrew Patterson, and we are given a love letter to old radio stories in this interesting science fiction tale. We follow Fay (Sierra McCormick), a young switchboard operator, and Everett (Jake Horowitz), a DJ, as they try to discover the source of a strange signal.
The film demands your attention as it is almost exclusively told through dialogue. I loved this aspect of the story, and we get fleshed out and real people shown organically in something that is almost real time. We even get black screen scenes where the dialogue is telling the story exclusively. This works as a window to the past where the radio was the only electronic entertainment.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but anyone who sees a preview know that this is about an unidentified radio source and reports of people seeing things in the sky. Without mass communication, Fay has to work to put the pieces together. Everett reaches out to his listeners for help, and we see strange intrigue develop as people begin to call in.
What impresses me most about this story is how subtly, yet powerfully issues of race and gender are presented. This is a science fiction movie that operates within the genre but allows for social commentary of the 1950s to develop naturally. It was interesting to see a film very much about class, race, and gender without directly being about those issues.
The camera work is good. We do have an intrusive camera, so expect a lot of tricks and style changes. It works here, but I do think some of the movements and sequences may be a little odd for some folks. These could easily be overdone, but Patterson used them well.
The only major flaw of the film is the sound mixing. We get realistic and fast dialogue, but it is not always loud enough to fully capture. This is primarily an issue in the first twenty minutes. I watch movies with CC anyway, so it didn’t seem too large a problem. However, folks who dislike captions might miss some small details.
This is a film that proves you don’t have to have a big budget to make something compelling. There isn’t a ton of CGI crap here—rather, we have a story told well. I imagine this one will be somewhat divisive as it doesn’t offer the visual candy that a lot of people want. However, folks who want their stories to focus on actual storytelling (what a concept), this is one of the best of the year.
I highly recommend this one. Excellent storytelling, acting, camerawork, and a cool vibe!