Andrew Patterson’s The Vast Of Night

Andrew Patterson’s The Vast Of Night is one of the only films I’ve seen that almost flawlessly captures that incredibly specific feeling of ‘a summer night right around school ending’, that magical, magnetic, ‘stay up all night’ vibe right as the year gets exciting. The film itself is about two high school students in the 50’s who receive a very strange radio frequency signal at a local broadcast station one of them works at, a signal that may or may not be coming from a mysterious unseen UFO hovering above the small town’s airspace. That plot thread is really just the groundwork for what can only be described as a very atmospheric, unbelievably well written and candidly acted mood piece where, for most of the film, we simply follow these characters talking amongst themselves and interacting in a very realistic fashion until slowly, bit by bit, the underlaying SciFi narrative makes itself known. Now, naturally such a style and pace requires a modicum of nearly meditation level patience from the viewer, but when your dialogue, atmospherics, acting and physical blocking of people and objects are this fluid, assured and endearing it’s not a tough task for a viewer to fully surrender themsef to the experience. Our two young leads (Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz) are both superb and have the kind of whip smart, intuitive chemistry you can relate to being a teenager once yourself, and every character they meet over the course of this night (unfolding in cohesive real time) is very well casted and acted, from their friends and family, high school faculty and a couple spooky informants who provide theories and personal experience as intel on this UFO scavenger hunt. This is director Andrew Patterson’s debut film and he goes for the boy wonder routine by basically doing almost everything himself including editing, and I have to give it to the guy, this is one hell of a first time effort. The camera moves elemental from scene to scene with unobtrusive cuts, gorgeous nocturnal summer photography and the sheer ballet of movement as characters move across town, in and out of cars, buildings and the central hub of the high school basketball stadium feels like an understated dance of near flawless blocking and storyboard translation. I won’t spoil whether or not these two kids actually find a real UFO or not because this is decidedly a ‘the journey, not the destination’ experience, but what a transfixing little journey it is. Anyone who has ever laid out in a field on a hushed summer evening, gazed up at the stars and felt that special indescribable feeling when they wonder what’s out there and are we really alone will heavily relate to this film and vibe on its atmospheric frequency, because it achieves something that is often so hard for films to tangibly and effectively alchemize onto the screen: a genuine sense of wonder. Very fine film.

-Nate Hill

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