One rule that you learn about in filmmaking is the “show don’t tell” rule. People tend to want to see some sort of action more than they want to listen to words, so it’s important to include some of that to keep a large chunk of the audience happy. Well, The Vast of Night doesn’t try to follow that rule. Instead, they give us an extremely dialogue-heavy picture that requires you to listen more than anything else.
On a fateful night in 1950s New Mexico, Fay (Sierra McCormick), a young switchboard operator discovers a strange audio frequency while on the job. Not knowing exactly what it is, the young lady reaches out to Everett (Jake Horowitz), a local radio disc jockey to help her find the answer. Together, with a bit of hard work and persistence, the duo uncover some disturbing information that could change their small town and the future forever.
For a sci-fi movie, relying on dialogue as much as they do here is odd and a bit risky. Since it’s a small budget film, it’s easy to see why they don’t put a whole on the screen when it comes to what we should be seeing, but some might have a problem with it regardless of the reasoning. On the other hand, I’m sure some will be able to appreciate it.
To balance this out, they have to get creative. One of the ways they do this is by upping the presentation. Right from the start, you’re going to notice that there’s an old episodic look and feel to it. This comes and goes, but it helps get you through chunks of we’re asked to watch. To be honest, this style of presentation probably wouldn’t be necessary under most circumstances, but because it’s such a simple picture, they need something to give it all that extra punch.
This visual style does help, but at certain periods in the first 20 minutes or so, it feels like they just want to take up as much time as possible. We spend the bulk of this portion of the film following our two main characters around as they are essentially taking us on a tour of the town that they call home. For a while, this works, but I eventually found myself just wanting everything to move forward so we could get to the actual movie that we’re here for.
Because of my lack of overall interest in this time period and this world, this portion of The Vast of Night felt like they were just trying to extend things. The movie is only about 89 minutes, so I understand the need to find a way to stretch this out, but it’s always better to get to the point in my opinion. With that being said, I’m sure some others will disagree since the world during the specific period that this is set in may be more intriguing to them.
Once we get all the way through the opening act, the improvements and positive qualities of The Vast of Night become more prominent. They almost never do anything worthwhile in terms of any sort of physical or emotional action, but the film requires you to pay attention to the dialogue. As I’ve basically said already, the film itself is almost completely reliant on what’s coming out of the mouths of the actors.
At the center of it all are Faye and Everett. Mostly everything is focused on them in some form or fashion, so you’d think that they’d be required to show us a lot. While the actors portraying these characters are both solid, in reality, they don’t have to show a great deal of range in the roles that they have. That could be an issue for some as well, but I think it fits in along with everything else that we see and hear throughout the film.
In order to judge these two properly, you need to add context and understand that it’s important to remember where we are in terms of setting and environment. You’re talking about a couple of curious young characters chasing a series of exciting events while moving through an empty small town during what should be a typical boring night for them. When you add to the fact that this is set in the 1950s, I don’t think the characters needed to be all that charismatic.
After watching it, The Vast of Night grew on me as I came to appreciate it as a film and respect the work that was done. It’s not the type of film that will garner pleasant reactions from the overwhelming majority of its viewers, but there’s an audience out there who will genuinely love what it has to offer. I guess it really just depends on what you require from sci-fi films. If you’re looking for anything bombastic or extremely energetic, you may have to look elsewhere.
If you’re up for something that is different from the norm, I would suggest at least trying this out. If you do that, you may walk away having enjoyed yourself. At the very least, I feel like you can come out of it thinking that the movie you got was a well-made one even if you’re not entirely fond of it. When looking at it in its totality, The Vast of Night will most likely not be a huge hit with its viewers, but I think it has the ability to develop some sort of cult following.
Director: Andrew Patterson
Craig W. Sanger
Film Length: 89 minutes
Release Date: May 29, 2020
Distributor: Amazon Prime Video
- Score - 7/107/10