Carol Morley’s Cosmic Noir ‘Out of Blue’ is Transfixing but Ultimately Disoriented

Following Katie Bouman’s monumental pictures of a black hole millions of light years away – visual confirmation of Einstein’s fantastical notions – we’re all looking to the stars with renewed curiosity. Out of Blue is a meditation on our chaotic universe, using the murder of astrophysicist Jennifer Rockwell to transport inscrutable detective Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson) into the liminal space between philosophy and physics.

Unusually affected by the violent nature of Jennifer’s demise, Mike immerses herself in Rockwell’s life, finding herself incomprehensibly linked to the enigmatic academic. While the meaning of this posthumous connection slowly unfolds, the constellation of characters interviewed provide emotive depth to the mystery. The breakdowns of her professor and her lover (Toby Jones, Jonathan Majors respectively) parallel the poised veneer of her aristocratic family, and in between them, a stellar performance from Jacki Weaver as Jennifer’s mother, breathlessly hysterical, trying to escape what killed her daughter.

Having shunned any mention of life before her career, the case brings forth fragments of Mike’s repressed memories. Though mesmerising in the moment, upon reflection, the link between Mike’s confrontation with trauma and her implied cosmic epiphany is incohesive. Her fascination with Jennifer’s study struggles to translate beyond an obvious metaphor of the ‘dark heart’ of black holes and half-hearted dialogue about stardust and Schrödinger’s cat.

Morley clearly intends any ambiguity to be left up to interpretation, mirroring how unanswered questions are indeed the drivers of scientific endeavour and centuries of philosophical debate, but I take issue with the superficiality of the answers the film does provide. Aptly, while the other-worldly atmosphere left me hypnotised, further consideration left me disheartened, so I find myself ambivalent towards the final result.

Carol Morley’s take on Martin Amis’ book Night Train presents several intriguing strands of intellectual ideology, but doesn’t expand upon them beyond the promising mentions, pensive moments with stunning visuals, and the feeling conjured by Clint Mansell’s glorious soundtrack. We contain multitudes, but Out of Blue only begins to scratch the surface of the notion. Perhaps in another dimension, it achieves greater success, but here, the scope of its potential doesn’t match the story told.

by Fatima Sheriff

Fatima is a third-year biomed at the University of Sheffield. For insight into her personality, her favourite films are Bright Star, Paddington 2, Taare Zameen Par and Pride & Prejudice and in 2017 she listened mostly to the Hidden Figures soundtrack. Mainly she is an avid TV watcher, particularly shows with original concepts, witty writing, and diverse casting. Examples include Legion, Gravity Falls, The Hour, Gilmore Girls, Sense8... and for more, her Twitter and TVShowTime are both @lafatimayette.

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