Vast of Night review Sierra McCormick Jake Horowitz

Year: 2019
Director(s): Andrew Patterson
Writer(s): James Montague, Craig W. Sanger
Region of Origin: USA
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Rating: n/a
Color, 89 mins

Synopsis: In the twilight of the 1950s, two youths seek the source of a mysterious frequency that has descended upon a town in New Mexico. (Source)

At a time when blockbusters compete to spend the most money, The Vast of Night reminds us that smart ideas, not expensive special effects, are what drive an unforgettable story. Director Andrew Patterson has created an unabashed love letter to classic science fiction, replete with heart and wonder. This is a film about human spectacle. It prizes what we don’t see more than what we do, examining how stories and memories shape who we are. Thanks to dazzling single takes and snappy dialogue, Patterson has created an instant classic that swoons with technical precision and an emphasis on the humane.

In the 1950s, one fateful night changes the lives of two friends living in a small, New Mexican town. As the entire population gathers for a high school basketball game, Everett (Jake Horowitz), a late night DJ, and Fay (Sierra McCormick), who operates the local switchboard, encounter something strange. Both hear an eerie sound interfering with their transmissions. Fay patches it through to Everett, who then transmits it live over the air. A mysterious man calls, suggesting that it’s not of earthly origin, setting Everett and Fay in a race against time. As they attempt to track the signal and its origin (which may be connected to mysterious lights hovering in the skies above), the two are forced to open their minds to extreme possibilities and unexplained phenomena. 

In every way, Patterson’s film is timeless and a breath of air in today’s cultural climate. Though the story is somewhat familiar, the method to Patterson’s madness is profoundly unparalleled. With a focus on character and an unsaid rhythmic urgency, the importance of communication drives a story filled with awe. Patterson prizes the restraint found in a good conversation, or a story recanted with passion. He lets long stretches of dialogue play out patiently, but always with a tactile sense of energy. In this way, he captures how stories outlive us, and how poignant human connection can be if we’re open to hearing what others have to say. As the story reveals itself in near real time, nothing is wasted and Patterson’s surreal symbolism is deep and affecting.

Vast of Night Jake Horowitz

At the heart of it all, Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick illuminate the film’s ideas of connection. Horowitz and McCormick are perfect opposites, the former rendering a low-key showman and the latter a sincere presence thirsting for adventure. Both performers are building off of classical stereotypes, yet feel genuine and fleshed out beyond the page or screen. Together, the pair’s chemistry makes the film come alive. Without them, the story’s restless plot wouldn’t have a beating heart. 

The Vast of Night’s most noteworthy achievement is that it realizes the importance of going small in order to go big. It’s a gargantuan effort that splices technical thrills with emotional resonance. Patterson has reset the genre in the most satisfying way. In all honesty, we need more films like this, and more artists willing to use ingenuity in lieu of ballooning budgets. There’s no doubt in my mind that this film is destined to be a new genre classic, reminding us that ideas and invention will always be the heart of cinema.