Writer/director Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter) continues his love of the Southern Gothic with this film. It isn’t so much the stories themselves that put them in that genre as much as how his tales are told. There is always a sense of wonder and heat and lethargy as well as increasing intensity through the slow spinning of his films. They ultimately explode at unexpected moments and leave you thinking.
Midnight Special is his most controlled film so far. It balances the sensibilities he loves with the broader story-telling tastes in the mainstream. It moves forward inexorably and with an increasing sense of costs and risks, all while chipping away at larger mysteries of plot and relationships between characters.
Jaeden Lieberher (St. Vincent) is the child about which all the action revolves. He delivers a good performance and continues to prove his chops as he is about to enter his early teens. However it really is the adults that drive the film.
Michael Shannon (Freeheld) and Joel Edgerton (Kinky Boots), with help from Kristin Dunst (Upside Down) become part of Lieberher’s circle and adventure. Each has their own reasons and needs, but all three work great together, fleshing out complex relationships with only a few short, subtle moments to cement their connections.
In addition to these three, Adam Driver (While We’re Young) and Sam Shepard (Out of the Furnace) bring in some other veiws. Driver, in particular, gets to be a lot more subtle than usual, but no less engaging. It was good to get to see him come to the end of a film without having to pick pieces of the set out of his teeth.
While this is very much its own film and story, it is hard not to think of Starman as the movie unfolds. It is, however, decidedly less PG than its earlier analog, and brings with it a more complete sense of the world. In particular, it accepts the modern world that appears to be buffeted by fanatics of every stripe. The result is very entertaining and, with a writer/director that only continues to improve and a talented cast to bring it all to life, it is certainly worth your time.