Director of the Week: Carol Morely & Out of Blue

3 min read
IFC Films
IFC Films

Out of Blue is a gritty, sometimes surreal detective noir thriller set in New Orleans, brimming with string theory and existential angst as to the nature of our lives and our place in the universe.

Mike Hoolihan is the no-nonsense female detective investigating the death of eminent astrophysicist Jennifer Rockwell, found shot to death in her observatory.

There are three main suspects: the observatory manager; Rockwell’s boyfriend; and Rockwell’s father. Detective Hoolihan methodically eliminates all of them from the equation. It was suicide, not murder. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t more than enough guilt to be shared by all the players, especially her father.

Professor Rockwell, lecturing on her specialty, black holes, on the night of her death: “Ninety percent of the matter in the universe is invisible. It’s unidentified. There is much we can’t see, detect, or comprehend, yet we spend our lives trying to get to the heart of this dark energy, this dark matter. But you can tell a lot by looking…”

She was obviously referencing the “black hole” at the center of her own life as well as the astrophysical phenomenon. Convinced of the existence of a multiverse (populated by countless variegated versions of ourselves existing on individual “threads” of separate realities), and having deduced her father to be a serial murderer, she simply decided to check out of this particularly dark universe, a single strand of the infinite multiverse, that she (and we) inhabit.

Director Carol Morely talked about the film in an illuminating interview.

“it was an adaptation of the book Night Train by Martin Amis, and it became a very radical adaptation of the book. Because when I started I didn’t really know where it would go and at a certain point I felt I had to own it and give it a title that felt right from everything I’ve been doing and I’d been looking at, the universe and cosmology.”

This female-directed movie perplexed and infuriated many genre fans and critics in its refusal to button up all the loose ends in a “satisfying” finale. Instead, director Carol Morely quite pointedly leaves the film’s conclusion muddled, unfocused and prismatic, as unbuttoned and frazzled as her recovering alcoholic protagonist, Detective Hoolihan.

Could the real problem be that movie audiences have long become accustomed to film conclusions being straight-forward in answering all questions?

That’s the very male-centric attitude adopted in most our storytelling. Male writers and directors tend to be all-knowing, all-revealing “judges.”

Maybe female-driven storytelling leaves much more possibility for alternate motivations, perceptions and conflicting conclusions, sometimes just as mixed up as actual human beings tend to be.

Do find movies that ask you, the viewer, to decide what the ultimate meaning of the story is to be irritatingly unsatisfying or wonderfully engaging as genuinely unexpected challenges?

We want to hear from you! If any of our Residence 11 movie reviews entice the movie lover in you to check out any of our spotlighted flicks, please text us your own comments, alternate perspectives, or criticisms (of the films themselves or our treatment of them). Thoughtful, respectful, positive criticisms (even those expressing passionate disagreement) will be considered for publication.

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