‘Cosmic Dawn’ Is An Emotionless Extra-Terrestrial Trip


A woman stands in front of a rock archway that looks out onto the galaxy in front of her. Nothing can be seen expect for the silhouette of her body. In the foreground are strange orange flowers that glow in the darkness.
Courtesy of Prowler Pictures

Based on the real-life extraterrestrial experiences of writer/director Jefferson Moneo, Cosmic Dawn attempts to convince us all the truth is most definitely out there. 

The second feature film by Moneo dives headfirst into alien conspiracies, it follows Aurora (Camille Rowe) in her quest to understand her mother’s alien abduction. Years after witnessing her mother’s disappearance, Aurora is plagued by troubling trippy visions, leading her straight to a cosmic cult and their beloved leader Elyse (Antonia Zegers). As with any cult, Elyse is a wise and all-knowing leader apparently gifted with a higher power, devoted to finding the truth about ‘The Cosmic Dawn’, and making contact with our alien overlords. After Aurora’s not-so-subtle indoctrination into the cult, she joins them on their private island, isolated from the real world.

Once on the island, the film begins to split time frequently as multiple timelines emerge. The messy execution of time jumps and awkward transitions do little to aid the development of the plot. Rather than build suspense consistently, the film opts for a more convoluted and frantic approach. This, combined with rigid, surface-level acting means that Cosmic Dawn fails to convey any genuine emotion or depth.

The cinematography and general imagery of each scene establish an acidic, psychedelic aesthetic – providing a consistent layer of artistry to the questionable emotional pacing. As Aurora descents further into cult madness, the cinematography goes with her. Moneo uses dramatic, shimmery colour changes in each alien encounter scene. Strong pinks and greens cast hallucinogenic overtones onto the intense shots of blinding lights and moving patterns. The original score features a mixture of sounds ranging from subtle sci-fi synths to cryptic indie vocals. Produced by Alan Howarth and MGMT’s Andrew Van Wyngarden, it provides a cool cosmic relief to the psychedelic visuals, which sweep over large chunks of the film, resulting in a beautifully immersive experience. 

Whilst the film starts off steadily, as a supernatural/sci-fi thriller, the attempt to thrill the audience becomes lost as Aurora’s story develops. The split timelines battle against each other as information is revealed to Aurora (and us) about the elusive cult and their mysterious leader.  As the timelines begin to merge, the film uses every last frame to proclaim its belief in extraterrestrial life wholeheartedly.

Once the credits roll Cosmic Dawn’s intense imagery and sci-fi soundtrack are certain to stay with you. The rest of the film will not.

Cosmic Dawn opens in theatres and VOD on February 11

by Kelsie Dickinson

Kelsie (she/her) is a super gay masters graduate from The University of Glasgow. She loves slashers, but hates capitalism. Her favourite films are It Follows, Midsommar, Lost In Translation and Ghost World. Find her on Twitter.

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