Leave the cannoli, take the movies

Review Blog

Midnight Special

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on April 5, 2016 at 2:50 PM


Jeff Nichols




IDEA:  A young boy with supernatural abilities is pursued by the religious cult that considers him a savior and the government that considers him a threat. With the help of a childhood friend, the boy's father takes him on the run.

BLURB:  Midnight Special is a vexing film that has ideas it never seems interested in realizing and intentions it actively bungles. This is a movie about faith in the unknown that gives us little reason to believe; a glimpse of future transcendence that forgets to generate awe or excitement; an imagining of a reality beyond our perception that feels crushingly earthbound; most upsetting of all, an intimate domestic story of parental love, responsibility, courage, and sacrifice that has no heart. The actors in Midnight Special have apparently been instructed to deliver their lines in a tone of monotonous solemnity, awkwardly signaling emotional cues without ever investing feeling in the thin characterizations they’ve been given. Nichols’ filmmaking follows suit as the narrative plods along stolidly, failing to pick up momentum or break free from the rigid parameters which it has imposed upon itself. One could perhaps argue that Nichols is using this listlessness to illustrate the oppressiveness of his American milieu, where cultish religion and government surveillance seek to control life, threatening to tear apart the home. But if the world has gotten this bad, shouldn’t we have a sense of what is being lost in the process? Shouldn’t we sense the humanity, the suppressed beauty, the potential for grace? Nichols arrives there eventually, but the journey is ponderous, its stodgy images and lifeless performances fatally incongruous with its ethereal aims.

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