The Vast of Night (2019)

Andrew Patterson’s “The Vast of Night” is one of those movies that would be so much better if its director had learned to stay out of his own way. Set in the 1950s, it follows Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz as they slowly become convinced there is a UFO near their small town over the course of an evening, which establishes a tone that recalls a sanitized “Twin Peaks.” However, as the two get to know each other under these thrilling-but-strange circumstances, Patterson starts to draw far too much attention to his directorial flourishes and ends up robbing the movie of any dramatic momentum. The period costumes and set design are perfect, and Patterson’s camera is strikingly confident, but he’s also far too enamored with his own cleverness: For instance, the movie is framed as an episode of the fictional show “Paradox Theater” (which stands in for “The Twilight Zone” and/or “The Outer Limits”), and Patterson’s insistence on repeatedly recalling this framing device becomes a frustrating distraction that precludes the audience’s full immersion. It’s a shame really, because the period aspect is so meticulously and lovingly recreated that it’s charming, and Patterson’s giddy camerawork is impressive in its fluidity, but his narrative skills need to grow before they can match his confidence. As it is, it’s a promising but regrettably flawed genre entry that keeps stepping on its own tail.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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