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Overall Rating

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Total Crap: 14.29%

2 reviews, 2 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"It's the end of the world as she knows it."
3 stars

I wonder, sometimes, if I would have either the creativity or writerly discipline to come up with a really good delusion should I ever break from personal tragedy, one where the metaphors are consistent and no surprises break the illusion, and maybe there's even a way for the outside world to break through when the time comes. I'm not saying that this is what filmmaker A.T. White is trying to do in this movie, but it's an obvious enough possibility that seasoned viewers of independent sci-fi movies to find themselves trying to decode the story as opposed to just running with it, even the first time through.

It starts with a funeral. Aubrey Parker's friend Grace (Christina Masterson) has died young, and Aubrey (Virginia Gardner) leaves early, not able to face anyone else, especially so soon after Christmas. She wanders the snowy Colorado town until she finds herself at Grace's apartment and lets herself in. When she wakes up, the power is out, and the town is eerily still, apparently empty, with monsters lurking around every corner. A package Grace left contains a message for Aubrey, saying Grace had been analyzing the signal that allowed these creatures to cross into their world, but "this mixtape will save the world", with six others hidden in spots important to them. But is Aubrey in any shape for that sort of quest, emotionally?

That's the hard thing about grief in general and using it as the engine to drive a movie like this in particular: It can be paralyzing, as there's nothing one can do about the situation and often precious little to be done in response. Grace can leave Aubrey with a quest, but a large part of the film's point is that even the fate of all humanity being on her shoulders can make it hard for her to do much more than wallow, sinking into the life of her lost friend and only reluctantly starting to look for the magic tapes when food and fuel start running low. It's honest, but often a test for the audience, because not only is Aubrey relatively inactive for much of the film, but White doesn't leverage that quiet time as well as he could - for all the time spent nesting in Grace's apartment, the viewer should have much than of a superficial sense of their friendship when Aubrey finally goes out and uses it to (hopefully) save herself and humanity. Instead, she seems to be following clues in tentative fashion, as disconnected as the audience rather than using her connection to pull others in.

This seems to fall more on White than Virginia Gardner; for all that Aubrey may not be doing a lot, she never comes across as a blank or a muted performance. Aubrey feels realistically hollowed, with Gardner carrying the right sort of weight around, a bit slow in her movements without being obviously confused unless there's a genuinely good reason; she makes clear the difference between existentially lost and confused by what's going on outside that bubble. Her eyes may light up momentarily, but never all the way, and she rather pointedly doesn't become more compelling when working off other people, even though those few interactions all work.

White and his crews do a lot of impressive things without going for huge scale - the snowy Colorado town they shoot in always feels convincingly empty, like there's nobody to come out and clear the snow or leave footprints, on top of being featureless and chilly, and that sets the tone nicely. When it comes time for some monsters to show their faces, they look impressive, both well-animated/performed and feeling like they reside both in Aubrey's psyche and the real world. Most of the other production work is on point, and there's also a fine animated sequence by the Tezuka studio.

Despite the good work, Starfish and its creator have a bit of a tendency to chase their own tails, with a couple of moments that are probably too meta for the film's own good and maybe a bit of a tendency to assume that the many musical selections will trigger the proper emotions without being previously introduced within the movie itself as the mixtapes get pulled out more. These are, in many ways, forgivable choices - the audience should feel some disconnection in a movie about disconnection - but it's not quite the right balance.

When the closing credits start with a dedication, it's clear that this is more than an abstract idea to White, the sort where you wonder just to what extent this film was made for other people and how much was made for himself. And then, of course, it's worth wondering how much of this world came all at once and how much was carefully planned.

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originally posted: 03/26/19 12:09:41
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User Comments

3/30/19 James Queerbugger A ludicrous joke of a movie, almost unwatchable. 1 stars
3/28/19 selena kyle PROOF READ 1 stars
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Directed by
  A.T. White

Written by
  A.T. White

  Virginia Gardner

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