Pros: Stylized as science fiction films of the 70s-80s and radio shows of the 40s-60s. last century; The spirit of that era is perfectly conveyed; the atmosphere of approaching something unknown; the director’s fetishistic fixation on the technology of the 50s and 60s; dialogues Cons: General slowness of the narrative; almost nothing happens in the film, it is essentially a radio drama with a picture; controversial decision to show the cause of the townspeople’s concern at the end of the film The Vast of Night / “Endless Night”
Directed by Andrew Patterson
Starring: Sierra McCormick (Faye Crocker), Jake Horowitz (Everett Sloane), Gail Kronau (Mabel Blanche), Bruce Davis (Billy), etc.
Studio GED Cinema, Amazon Studios
Year of release 2020
Late 50s last century. The satellite has already been launched, but a certain Yuri Gagarin has not yet even written a report asking to be included in the group of cosmonaut candidates. The tiny town of Cayuga (472 inhabitants), somewhere in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico, is preparing for a very important event – a basketball match between the local high school team and guests from the neighboring town. Almost the entire city gathered in the gym to watch the game, and only a few people were forced to return to work. They are sixteen-year-old Fay Crocker, who works part-time as a telephone switchboard operator for the city, and local radio DJ Everett Sloan, who is showing Fay how to use a portable voice recorder she recently bought.
A few minutes into the match, Fey hears an unusual signal on Everett’s radio broadcast and literally immediately after that receives a call containing the same signal. Fey and Everett try to figure out the origin of a strange sound and are on the trail of a mystery that connects many people both in their town and beyond.
The Vast of Night begins with a black and white image on the screen of an ancient television. This stylization of The Twilight Zone, with which the authors will divide the film into conventional episodes, is not without reason. Unlike most modern directors who are trying to capture the spirit of the 80s and 90s on film. last century, Andrew Patterson, who was born in 1982 and is familiar with that time firsthand, is fascinated by the earlier period – 50-70.
Patterson approaches recreating the atmosphere of that time with almost obsessive attention. He is literally obsessed with the technology of that period, so in his film there is a lot of work with devices – switching channels of a switchboard, rewinding tape reels, clicking buttons and switches. The first fifteen minutes of the film are basically just fooling around with a voice recorder. Everett enthusiastically clicks buttons, forcing Fay to interview random passers-by, record her voice, and say something into the microphone. The voice recorder is a new product for Fairies and everyone around them, a small technical miracle that amuses and entertains with the very fact of its existence.
This genuine admiration for a simple device perfectly conveys the spirit of that time. How teenagers’ conversations convey it. They tell each other about their grandiose, in fact quite mundane, from a modern point of view, plans for adult life. Fey enthusiastically recounts to Everett articles from popular science magazines that she has recently read: about trains rushing through underground tunnels at speeds of 700-800 km/h; about cars that can be controlled using electrical signals; about small phones that you can carry with you, and during a conversation you can see the face of your interlocutor. Surprisingly, in the USSR there were almost the same sentiments 20 years later, at the end of the 70s.
The Vast of Night is a talk film, essentially a radio play with minimalist visuals that leave plenty to the imagination. The dialogues here are really quite good and it’s better to listen to them in the original language. The main work in the film is carried out by two leading actors – Sierra McCormick (Faye Crocker) and Jake Horowitz (Everett Sloane). Moreover, McCormick, who had previously appeared in several youth sitcoms, wore makeup and clothes from the 50s. doesn’t look like herself at all.
The Vast of Night does have a very minimalistic visuals. All the events of the film take place at night in a poorly lit small town. All the director allows himself is a few wild scenes shot with one camera, for example, flying through the entire city in the middle of the film. There are no special special effects here, or rather, almost none, but in my opinion, it would be better not to have them at all. At the very end of the film, Andrew Patterson decides to show what Fey and Emerett have been chasing all night, and it seems to me that this is a wrong decision. Yes, this scene was needed to provide an additional bridge to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, with which Patterson’s film echoes, but the empty night sky and only the very last frame included in the film would have made the ending much stronger.
The Vast of Night collected a whole bunch of awards at several independent film festivals and was warmly received by critics, but viewers did not appreciate the leisurely pace of the film and the lack of action. Which, however, is not surprising. As mentioned above, this film comes from the 80s, then such films attracted huge audiences and earned good money, but today such films have no chance at the box office, different times – different preferences. But on Amazon Prime Video, the film, its director and cast have every chance of being noticed. For this alone, streaming services should be thanked.
A very unusual, but attractive film in its own way, which perfectly conveys the spirit of classic science fiction from the 40s to the 80s.