Following the death of her best friend Grace, Aubrey (Virginia Gardner, Halloween) breaks into her vacant apartment to feed the pets and immerse herself in the memories of their relationship. When she awakens on the sofa the next day, Aubrey finds the deserted streets outside covered in snow, stained with blood, and roamed by monstrous alien creatures.
Confined and confused, she rummages through Grace’s journals and tapes, discovering a rambling mess of research on some apocalyptic interstellar signal. But through her notes, Grace has left a trail of breadcrumbs that leads Aubrey on a scavenger hunt collecting cassettes from the pair’s old haunts – mixtapes that played together will save the world.
The feature debut of filmmaker A.T. White, Starfish is a slow-burning lo-fi sci-fi that sits comfortably with such company as Monsters, Coherence and Another Earth.
The film is poetically shot by cinematographer Alberto Bañares, who conjures a woozy, dreamlike world with lingering imagery. While the dialogue is sparse, the narrative is driven by Gardner’s compelling lead (almost solo) performance, and White’s knack for musical storytelling.
As befits a film preoccupied with mixtapes, Starfish boasts a cool-as-heck, hipster-friendly soundtrack featuring post-rock pioneers Sigur Rós and 65daysofstatic, as well as alt/indie rockers like Grandaddy and Seafood, while White himself composed the spare yet stirring score.
The film occasionally flirts with becoming too clever for its own good, as White flourishes every cinematic trick in his toolbox: artsy hallucination, animation, and a particularly audacious moment of post-modern self-reflexivity. Yet amidst the flash is Gardner’s understated, magnetic performance, which carries the film right up to its climax – an enigmatic and emotionally resonant revelation, reminiscent of Donnie Darko and Benson & Moorhead’s The Endless.
An introspective and evocative trip through grief and guilt, Starfish is an assured debut that heralds a distinctive new cinematic voice and vision.
See Starfish on VOD from 28th May.
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