Carol Morley (director)
Picture House Entertainment (studio)
02 September 2019 (released)
08 September 2019
If you think that the movies of David Lynch are somewhat puzzling and weird, well, you might find yourself at an equal loss when it comes to OUT OF BLUE, based on Martin Amis’s novel ‘Night Train’ and directed by Carol Morley.
Central figure in this peculiar murder mystery is female Detective Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson), a woman who battles her own demons as it soon turns out. Hoolihan is called to investigate the brutal murder of young astrophysicist Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer) at an observatory in New Orleans. There is plenty of talk about black holes and how the death of a star is somehow connected to our existence, and how different stars are connected to different body parts like hands and so forth. Trust me, it gets a hell of a lot more confusing as the film goes on. Jennifer’s body had been found by observatory manager Professor Strammi (Toby Jones) with a shot wound to her face, but no weapon in sight. A blood-smeared sock and a tub of moisturizing cream are also found at the crime scene. While Strammis seems the obvious suspect the sock is traced back to Jennifer’s boyfriend – a somewhat confused individual claiming he left in a hurry on the night of his girlfriend’s murder to immerse himself in new astrophysical theories. Meanwhile, Prof. Strammi insists he was out with colleagues on the night of the murder.
While trying to find possible clues in Jennifer’s flat, Det. Hoolihan discovers that the murder victim was apparently a passionate collector of strange bric-a-bracs, in fact the troubled detective passes out when she spots a ‘Florida’ snow-shaker globe and some blue marbles. Somehow the snow globe and the blue marbles evoke distant and uncomfortable memories in Hoolihan but she can’t quite put the finger on it. After failing to find the culprit, a colleague remarks that Jennifer’s murder bears all the hallmarks of the notorious ’38 Caliber Killer’ – a serial killer who had murdered several young women years ago and always exchanged bric-a-bracs with his victims. However, upon delving deeper into this theory Hoolihan comes to the conclusion that Jennifer wasn’t murdered at all but actually committed suicide with a 38 Caliber pistol – but why? And why is the murder weapon missing? While Hoolihan interviews Jennifer’s various family members, including her dominant and intimidating father Colonel Tom Rockwell (James Caan), she realizes that he might be playing a part in this grisly event… but which part? The closer Hoolihan gets to cracking the case, the more her personal life spins out of control while long forgotten memories make an unwelcome return… leading to a conclusion that on the one hand doesn’t altogether surprise while on the other seems a trifle far-fetched…
While the actual murder mystery is certainly an interesting one, a lot of film time is wasted thanks to an almost agonizingly slow pace and too much theorizing rather than action. Although Detective Mike Hoolihan is meant to be a troubled character it’s hard to warm to her at all, in fact it’s hard to warm to any of the characters. In the case of Detective Hoolihan, she is best described as irksome – or perhaps it’s just down to a charisma-free performance by Patricia Clarkson.
OUT OF BLUE is a whodunnit that will no doubt divide the camps! Plenty of wasted opportunities here, including the lack of New Orleans exteriors and indeed the lack of Toby Jones’ screen time! A shame really, considering that director Carol Morley’s 2011 semi-documentary DREAMS OF A LIFE was considerably more engaging.