As part of Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019.
Nostalgia is a theme that has pervaded the film industry for decades, with the current flavour of the month revolving around the 1980s to rather mixed success. As such, it’s refreshing to see a film that not only pays homage to a previous time period, but also to a genre as a whole, as well as doing so as superbly as The Vast of Night does.
Unfolding over the course of one night, in near-enough real time, The Vast of Night follows Radio DJ Everett and switchboard operator Fay who uncover and investigate an unusual radio frequency in their small town in New Mexico. The film is an ode to 1950s pulp science-fiction, and all of the underlying elements that naturally comes bundled with its setting, including Red Scare paranoia and segregation.
It’s a slow and methodical film which knows how to slowly build its tension. Even if the end reveal is rather predictable, it’s about the journey, not the destination. Moments of serene calm pervade throughout, and the titular vastness of the night is ever-present in what is quite a dim film, all of which contributes to an incredibly strong feeling of place and circumstance from the film. Moreover, the cinematography makes the entire affair utterly enthralling, excellently blending long-take tracking shots with lingering still ones.
Alongside these moments are incredible performances from Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz as Fay and Everett (respectively). The chemistry between the two is palpable, and both deliver the strongly written -and often lengthy- dialogue in a way that feels inherently natural, even if it does move at a mile a minute. In particular, Horowitz has a knack for delivering dry humour that adds unexpected levels of comedy to certain scenes.
Not everything hits the mark however, as the film attempts to use a blank screen to add weight to certain scenes which doesn’t necessarily work in the way intended. This is but a small complaint though, especially considering the strength of the rest of the film.
Between its Twilight Zone style framing, which remains throughout the film all the way to the credits; to its central narrative which unfolds more akin to a period-relevant radio play a la Orson Welles’ adaptation The War of the Worlds; The Vast of Night is a joy to watch and a must for lovers of vintage science-fiction and slow-burn mystery.
International Premiere screenings at Odeon Edinburgh Fri 28 and Filmhouse Edinburgh Sat 29 Jun 2019.