Director: Carol Morley
Cast: Mamie Gummer, Patricia Clarkson, James Caan, Jacki Weaver, Aaron Tveit, Toby Jones, Jacki Weaver
Watch Out of Blue online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Rakuten TV / Sky Store
From Dreams of a Life to The Falling, Carol Morley has established herself as one of Britain’s most distinctive, interesting and original filmmaking voices. With Out of Blue, her ambitious neo-noir thriller, you’re once again convinced of all of those things – you just wonder what exactly it is her voice is trying to say.
The film is, on the surface, a familiar crime mystery, as we see a cop investigating the mysterious death of a woman in New Orleans. But things soon get much weirder and more bewildering. The cop in question? Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson), a careworn veteran of the force. The victim? Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer) an astrophysicist whose body is found next to her telescope in the local observatory. What ensues is at once conventional and completely baffling, as Hoolihan goes through the motions of detective work, and Morley repeatedly distracts us with other mysteries altogether.
The movie is based on Martin Amis’ 1997 novel Night Train, and Morley doesn’t struggle to tap into the hard-boiled tone. Clarkson helps with a fantastic lead performance, and it’s a treat to see her bring her own patient yet unruly and certainly relentless touch to her alcolohic detective. But everything around her blurs into nonsense, as the clues veer wildly from face cream to black holes.
Flashbacks from Hoolihan’s own past – she is the daughter of Vietnam vet and business tycoon Tom Rockwell (James Caan) – and eerie conversations in the present with her mum (Jacki Weaver) only add to the uneven tone of events, which jump from Chinatown-esque intrigue to Lynchian strangeness without any consistent bridge between. Even the presence of Toby Jones as Jennifer’s colleague can’t ground proceedings enough to give the plot time to find its bearings; this is a crime story not of red herrings but erratically scattered breadcrumbs. Throughout, Morley returns to questions of human existence the very matter of the universe, but as it becomes increasingly clear that those questions aren’t about to be answered, the result is a frustrating effort that looks bewitching but leaves you bored.