The Vast Of Night: TIFF 2019 Review — 9 Movies in 10 Days
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Poodle skirts, sock hops, the whole town comes out to see the boys basketball team take on their rivals at the arena. The whole town. The 1950s — a simpler time. Most people still had radios instead of that “new-fangled television contraption”. In the New Mexico small town where The Vast Of Night takes place everyone knows everyone else. The debut film by Andrew Patterson happens on one long dark night that changes everything. It centres around two people, a young overnight disc jockey (Jake Horowitz) at the local radio station, WOTW, and a younger old-time telephone switchboard operator (Sierra McCormick), who may or may not have a crush on her older DJ friend.
On this night, the whole town, give or take a few, are at that basketball game. Our two protagonists go to their respective jobs, and a series of thrilling, mysterious and unlikely events start happening around the town. With most people preoccupied, it becomes up to these two inquisitive, quick-talking youngsters to unravel an epic story and get to the bottom of the strange sounds and disturbances they are witnessing around the town.
The Vast Of Night Review
Without giving away too much of the plot, I will say that this is an absolutely brilliant debut from Andrew Patterson. He took notable, yet under-appreciated source material, and successfully changed the lens and the perspective, while keeping all of the feels that made the original so great. During and after the screening of The Vast Of Night, the names “Hitchcock” and “Poe” were uttered in reference to Patterson’s sensibilities. Crazy, right? I mean, it’s his first film, it had a modest budget. Thing is, those comparison are not off-base.
Out of the nine TIFF Midnight Madness films screened this year, The Vast Of Night was the runner-up in votes among the fans. It very well could be this year’s little film that could. It has already been purchased by Amazon, and if they are smart, they will release it close to Halloween on the streaming service.
It is definitely for the adult crowd, but not because of any gore, violence, or sexual content. It is because it is a slow burn, much like the best Twilight Zone episodes. It definitely has an old school vibe, most notably the quick-paced, matter-of-fact way the characters communicate with each other and how seemingly perfect the costume and set design is. Patterson is a smart director though. As the setting and dialogue is somewhat old school, the ambitious way he shot the film was anything but. The entire movie was shot across this small town with several incredibly long (one-take) shots, and minimal interior shots. This type of film-making involves a tremendous amount of rehearsal with the actors having to hit their marks and say their incredibly complicated dialogue at the right times, all while the crew, which includes cameramen, sound men, lighting and a ton of other people do a well-choreographed dance with each other, where one misstep by any one of them could mean going back several scenes in the script and starting all over again.
At the Midnight Madness Q & A, Patterson spoke about two very interesting shots. The first was a long shot that went through the town, partly shot by drone and at some point the camera was handed to another camera man waiting outside a window, and then, blah, blah, blah resulting in an almost 20 minute very mobile one take. Another scene was a single shot on one actress, having several conversations with multiple people through a telephone switchboard, she had to deliver the dialogue and remember the detailed actions of plugging and unplugging aux cables in and out of the board, all while giving an amazing performance that successfully pushes the plot along and gets the audience on the edge of their seats as the tension escalates based only on her dialogue and performance. This scene, I believe, comes in just under 12 minutes in duration. For an actor to hold the frame alone, that is an eternity. It is as riveting a story as it is fascinatingly told.
The Vast Of Night Verdict
When this film drops, gather the mature family members that can respect great storytelling and go for the thrill ride that is The Vast Of Night. Horowitz and McCormick not only have an intoxicating chemistry, but they both give masterclasses in acting in their roles as Everett and Fay Crocker, respectively. We should be seeing more of them in the future. Ultimately, this film is a tribute to another amazing piece of broadcast gold, in a way it pays homage to it, and at the same time allows a new generation to get an idea of what it felt like to experience the source material.
To read more reviews on TIFF, and JFL42 from Mobster, Curtis Morgan, just click here.