Starfish is a cosmic apocalyptic tale about grief and guilt, that is of stunning visual beauty.
Starfish is a beautifully told tale about loss, grief and guilt in an extraordinary setting. It plays out during an apocalyptic event, but instead of filming the chaos, it focusses on just one character making it an intimate experience. It is filmed with style and an intense atmosphere and mixes different types of genres, like weird fiction, science fiction, drama and surrealism.
It’s very intimate and it depicts with integrity how grief is a solitude experience. Ultimately this results in a wonderful and bizarre meta-perspective that turns symbolism into realism and vice versa. It is an exceptional film, and though an arthouse movie and fairly slow paced, very accessible and relatable. It’s a science fiction mixed tape that is gripping and sincere.
When Grace, Aubrey’s best friend dies, Aubrey breaks into her apartment after the funeral to grief. Unaware of what is going on outside she discovers the next day, that the town is buried underneath a big pile of snow and everybody seems to have disappeared.
Looking outside for some clues she is attacked by some creature and runs back inside. When she finds a couple of mixed tapes with strange messages from Grace she might get a clue of what is going on. With help from one other person who talks to her through a walkie talkie, she might be able to put back the monsters where they belong.
Why you should watch it
First of all it’s a very intense film. It’s also very intimate and visceral and appeals to the emotions, which is established by the choice in cinematography and music and the character of Aubrey. It’s sincere and vulnerable and mixed together with great passion, into a very personal mixed tape. It plays out very slowly and you must bare with it to let yourself submerge into the story.
Only centered around Aubrey, we bear witness to her descend into grief and/or madness in a world that no longer exists. Like her world as it was with Grace and as we learn her boyfriend, no longer exists. It’s a beautiful mix of genres and mixes reality with symbolism in the weirdest way, just like the mixed tapes Aubrey finds.
This results in different scenes, hallucinations or visions, or time-and-space traveling each depicted in a very different way and style that suits the music on the tape. There’s animation, a meta-perspective, different places. It makes it all very surrealistic, but with the constant focus on Aubrey and her emotions, and the way she experiences all of it, it stays intimate and understandable.
The cinematography is often dreamlike and the creatures are very Lovecraftian, but different from each other. The enormous creature which is a beauty and terrifyingly amazing at the same time, is impressively created. Some creatures are more dangerous than others, some will leave you in awe and some are deadly, animated or real.
The cinematography is a piece of art, keeping the focus highly intense taking Aubrey’s point of view but also shows she gets the rug pulled out from under her feet, turning the camera on her. Points of view are turned and it symbolizes that what she experiences might be otherworldly entirely, either her personal world or earth itself or both. It’s all symbolic and a meta-perspective but it also could be very real and that’s also the beauty of the film.
It’s a complex story about complex emotions, but with a relatable character, who’s endearing, brave, vulnerable, but determined. It becomes a very gripping tale. It just may be one big surreal bizarre nostalgic music video, which makes sense on an emotional level, but that makes it all the more intriguing.
My favorite part
While you may wonder if it’s all inside Aubrey’s head, that the world didn’t end for everyone, just for her, and she’s trying to find her way back with help of the mixed tapes, it is more than that. It’s also about chasing your demons away, your feelings of guilt or remorse, and grief, but you can’t do this just by closing a portal.
Or it could be real entirely.
Instead of making it all internally, we get to see some impressive monsters. The enormous creature the size of a skyscraper that walks by, is a sight you’ll never forget. It’s filmed in a way you would react when you discover a new species, in respect and amazement. It’s breathtaking.
But the segments where Aubrey loses herself in the music and transcends into alternate states, other places or dimensions, even in an animated state, makes this film outstanding. It’s original, but also well done, and in perfect harmony with the music, while it also explains and explores more of Aubrey’s actions and motivations, or her traumas for that matter.
It intertwines the realism, the drama, the symbolism, and the surrealism all into one, and it not only works but it’s gripping and heartbreaking at the same time. Even more so at the ending, which is both beautiful weird fiction as a total reality check full with irony, or forgiveness.
This is a very impressive debut, which deserves to be seen, not only by horror or weird fiction or science fiction lovers, genre addicts, but by people who can appreciate art and drama.
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Surrealism factor: ★★★★★
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Cast and crew
Starfish is directed, written and edited by A.T. White. It stars Aida Bernal (Aubrey).
Duration: 99 minutes. Music: A.T White. Cinematography: Alberto Bañares. Produced by: Aida Bernal, Aldo Jovan Diaz, Tanroh Ishida.