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Movie Review: 'The Vast Of Night'

At this point, if you’re going to make a movie about the possibility of aliens, you’d better find an interesting way to tell the story. One way to do that is to be forced into it by the fact that you have basically no money.

OK, this isn’t a foolproof plan, but it’s worked for director Andrew Patterson with his nifty debut, The Vast of Night. Patterson also wrote and edited this tiny-budgeted movie, and apparently was its sole financier.

He frames the story as if it were an episode of a Twilight Zone-type television show, as we open in a small New Mexico town in the 1950s, on the night of a big high school basketball game. We’re quickly introduced to Everett, a loquacious young radio deejay, and Fay, a high school girl who works as a telephone switchboard operator. We walk around with them through lengthy tracking shots as they engage in banter that’s so snappy I sort of gave up trying to follow what they were saying, and I was nervous that it all seemed way too pleased with itself.

But this was a setup, and I completely bit it. As the night wears on, with nearly everyone else at the big game, the whole world slows… way… down. And we start to feel that vast expanse of night. While Everett does his radio show, Fay hears an unusual sound coming through the switchboard. She calls Everett, and as the two try to figure out what’s going on, the movie becomes so much about listening. Listening to that sound, to the shockingly silent sky, to the voices of the few people who may know what this all means. The rapid speech and floating camera give way to hushed monologues as we watch, and we listen, wondering what’s out there.

We’ve all stared up into the dark, knowing we can’t really conceive of what we’re looking at. The Vast of Night takes us to that place, to that immense quiet that could very well be speaking to us right now.


The Vast of Night is available on Amazon Prime.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.