Directed by Carol Morley
Embodying traditional detective drama with existential reflection, Carol Morley’s Out Of Blue truly is a combination of contrasts, red and blue, right and wrong, sober and drunk, because what may be perceived to be reality might not actually be the case in this multiverse.
Detective Mike Hoolihan (Patricia Clarkson) has had a mysterious origin, one which throughout her life has led her to constantly dual with alcoholism, but in the wake of the murder of Dr. Jennifer Rockwell (Mamie Gummer), a brilliant astrophysicist with a vocal whimsical timbre, she’s beginning to fight a losing battle. Rockwell’s death has inexplicable links to serial killings from 60 years ago, and for the first time in Hoolihan’s prolific career her senses are failing her, and she’s struggling to understand why.
Timelines are converging upon Hoolihan, and much like the over referenced paradox of Schrodinger’s cat, we’re never entirely sure if we’re pulling information from a parallel world instead of the one in which our protagonist is currently residing. The ambition here is admirable, but may lead to a frustrating metaphorical implosion, the dark heart of a black hole, causing us to wonder what Morley’s ultimate goal was. From my perspective, there are three possibilities for her intentions, the first being that she made a straightforward Who-Dunnit. If this is the case, then she fails in leading us down a dark enigmatic alley, because she provides too many neon signposts, and lamentably we’re left with a banal conclusion.
It could be argued, however, that Morley doesn’t wish to anchor us to a mystery, in order to free up our consciousness and take us on a journey through a Lynchian dreamscape. This interconnects with her bold use of visuals, as she creates a psychedelic environment, employing contrasts of red and blue to demonstrate alternate realities, except for where Hoolihan is concerned, as she is consistently adorned in colour absorbing black. The film evolves to introduce hues of yellow and green hinting at Spring, and a metaphorical new life, fitting with a wonderfully David Bowie-esque Black Star moment, when Hoolihan climbs out of a wardrobe, present both literally and figuratively in a scene from her childhood. Problematically, if pure experience was the goal here then this aim is marred by metaphors so on the nose you’ll need a nasal splint. Discussions about how we all wear masks are held against backdrops of actual masks, and a cat is literally let out of a box amidst heavy Schrodinger references. To achieve effective abstraction it is essential that Morley show the audience rather than repeatedly telling us.
Potentially Morley’s masterplan was, and maybe I’m giving too much credit here, to combine both of these contrasting approaches in order to create something a bit messy, but quite beautiful. Perhaps she deliberately confuses the audience in order to involve them in what Hoolihan was experiencing psychologically; changing imagery, overlapping timelines, and mixed metaphors, allowing us to feel drunk and lost alongside her. This would possibly make sense of the manner in which the narrative ties together neatly despite such knotted rope.
No matter what Morley’s true objective, despite the fact that Out of Blue is undeniably flawed, there are copious enjoyable elements, including Clarkson’s performance, stellar visuals and Clint Mansell’s score, which resonated with pensive electricity, fitting with the vocation of Rockwell’s family, as well as the strange electrical faults that continue throughout the film.
Out Of Blue is somewhat of a jambalaya of messages, which can make for slightly exasperating, but yet intoxicating viewing. She shot for the moon, unfortunately just out of grasp of the stars, but every great dream begins with a dreamer.