James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James C. Clay // Film Critic
Going through grief is awful. It manifests itself in many ways, from denial, anger, sadness, rage, and maybe acceptance. This is where A.T. White’s dreamy post-apocalyptic film STARFISH enters into the equation. It’s a film that morphs into (and between) different genres that boast talent behind the camera. But it’s a bit too inaccessible.
Virginia Gardner (2018’s HALLOWEEN) provides a unique performance that has her acting alone for the majority of the film. This is the type of film that requires collaboration from the filmmaking team; however, the final product highlights a unique vision. Despite this being a substantial creative endeavor, there are layers upon layers of subtext to uncover any emotional resonance.
Aubrey (Gardner) is a young woman who is mourning the loss of her best friend while coping in their empty apartment. She uncovers things about her friend that she never knew and discovers a mysterious (and beautifully retro) mixtape that’s labeled in all caps, “THIS MIXTAPE WILL SAVE THE WORLD,” as an audible signal echoes the in the icy wilderness. It turns out that the noise is signifying that the world as we know it is coming to an end. On this quiet journey, Aubrey wrestles within her psyche as she asks herself tough existential questions. She battles with the fact that there are secrets to be uncovered that can either save the world from destruction or cause its demise.
Gardner is a welcoming presence on screen as she shows her range as a versatile performer. She was a standout in David Gordon Green’s HALLOWEEN, but now has her own indie vehicle that asks a lot from her.
This is a film bursting with ambition in its thematic elements. It even splices itself in-between genres without ever batting an eye. White’s direction is commendable, to say the least, but also indulgent in a way that can be a bit too much to digest – without providing a reason to feel invested. The images put on the screen will keep viewers puzzled with its beauty and meanings, and some may find the challenge of it rewarding.
This is a film made with sincerity, which, of course, can be hard to find in this cinematic landscape. And while there is talent displayed from the acting and directing, it leaves a frigid feeling that doesn’t leave much room for thought.
STARFISH is a beautiful film that blends memory into a moody soundtrack (that has its images playing in tandem with the music being showcased on screen). There was just part of me that couldn’t tap past the surface, despite how compelling the tonal shifts are. Frustrating to say, STARFISH is an uncompromising piece of film that is intentionally vague and consequentially a bit dull.
STARFISH is now available to rent on VOD.