The Vast of Night

COVID-19 claims its first major cinematic casualty with The Vast of Night – which has been denied what should have been some serious big-screen acclaim as an innovative indie. There aren’t many sci-fi movies that provide a platonic ideal of an outsider romance while seducing the audience into a cruel metaphor. The singularly named Everett (Jake Horowitz) is a strutting nerd whose job as a small-town DJ in 1957 New Mexico makes him an A/V hero in a world without the video. While most of the locals are attending a big basketball game, Everett is persuaded into investigating a possible UFO by 16-year-old switchboard operator Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick, in an unlikely star-making turn). Aspiring newsman Everett and “big science girl” Fay are equally inspired as they constantly worry about getting in trouble while thrilling to abandoning their posts. (“Did you steal a car? I stole a bicycle!”) Andrew Patterson oversees plenty of beautiful shots in his directorial debut, while James Montague and Craig W. Sanger come up with an unforgettable ending to their dizzying first script. Strangely enough, Vast still comes presciently packaged for the small screen. For no discernible reason – other than maybe padding things to a proper 90 minutes – the film is presented as an episode of a Twilight Zone knockoff called Paradox Theater. The establishing shot even has to zoom out from a television screen, with a few scenes occasionally reverting to a smaller frame. Sadly, we don’t need the reminder that most viewers are being robbed of an important theatrical experience.