“The Vast of Night” is a neo-noir film set in the twilight of the 1950’s. It follows a young switchboard operator and radio DJ who come across a strange audio frequency that could potentially be connected to the presence of aliens. This is the directorial debut of Andrew Patterson and I love what he accomplished with this film. The camerawork was fluid. He opts for much longer cuts which I felt gave the story a smooth, and at times elegant flow from a visual aspect. It’s subtle, but the movements of the camera through this small town created an eeriness that fit the plot perfectly.
The way Patterson hangs on the frame to let the characters deliver dialogue builds on the feeling of curiosity as to what is happening. It captures the natural excitement we see from these two characters as they try to figure out what this signal they’re hearing is sourced from. The film opens on a story that feels like it’s already in motion. Characters are going about their business on a seemingly normal night. You meet these two youths and from there you experience the story with them in a sense.
This is what pulled me into this film. I felt the same curiosity and intrigue that the two main characters did, and it propelled me to follow them through as they searched for answers. This is where Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz steal the show. This script is constructed of many long conversations as information is sought out. The pace of the dialogue is quick, the tone of phrase is timed nicely to the era, and both McCormick and Horowitz deliver it with a precise authenticity that has me instantly attached to their characters.
Horowitz and McCormick were able to fill their characters with charm and personality. They capture a natural charisma. Their timing and chemistry together was genuine, and they both carry this film with ease. It was a grounded take on the alien invasion premise. Some may miss the large scope of the story and blockbuster set-pieces. But that wasn’t what this film set out to accomplish. This one set out to pull the viewer into the night of a couple teens in the 50’s who experience something other worldly and it was a great change of pace for the genre.
This movie creates atmosphere through the lighting, the sound design, and the saturated color palette. All that added with dated characters, 50’s slang, and detailed backdrops effectively feels like you are taking a step back in time. It captures and explores the natural wonder of the unknown through a couple curious teens and it works. The dialogue is tightly-written and it results in two mentally sharp characters you can invest in. The story-line weaves a compelling mystery, but also brushes on a much larger world that naturally evokes thought while watching. The direction and cinematography are subtle, but the result is a beautifully crafted film, done in an unassuming way.
So, in the end it was a fun change of pace. It takes you to another time and place but lives in the world of reality. It’s realistic and that’s what compelled me the most. The characters react and try to gather information like normal people would and that human quality in the characters was incredibly endearing. This movie felt like stepping back into a time capsule and where it wasn’t flashy, it was layered, and where it may have lacked in spectacle, it made up for it with authenticity and heart.