All The Gods In The Sky film review London Film Festival 2018: a strange bleak horror

All The Gods In The Sky is an ambitious and genre-bending work meant to shock and awe

Expanded from a Sundance short film, A Nearly Perfect Blue Sky, and inspired by a photograph of a boy who lay next to his dead sister for three weeks, a director simply known as Quarxx pushes the New French Extremity to unexpected places with All The Gods In The Sky. It is a film that’s part gorgeously empathetic fairy-tale, part science fiction and entirely twisted about a listless factory worker in rural France who looks to the skies for redemption and salvation.

A devastating childhood accident has left Simon’s (Jean-Luc Couchard) sister Estelle (model Melanie Gaydos making her debut film appearance) severely disabled, and he has spent his adult life caring for her in their decaying and grubby family home. His guilt since the incident has left him spiralling out of control and convinced he was abducted by aliens who are still trying to contact him. He doesn’t have any friends and only leaves the house for work, mysterious tasks and occasional visits to a psychiatrist – he’s angry at the system and their aim to remove Estelle from his care. When a young girl, Zoe, pays the siblings a visit at their isolated farm house all that changes.

Genuinely bleak and upsetting in places, this is a horror intent on both shocking audiences and inspiring awe. Estelle is mostly left alone locked in her room, like Rapunzel, waiting for someone to rescue her. Her interactions with Zoe are tender and moving as they strike up a nurturing friendship and beautiful connection. Gaydos turns in a superb and committed performance and Couchard effectively places the viewer in his agitated state. Quarxx ups the disorientation levels and adds wonder to all the melancholy, unpleasantness and despair with remarkable, otherworldly imagery.

Touching upon trauma, the pressures of caring for someone, disability, poverty and stolen childhoods in an ambitious and imaginative way Quarxx occasionally reaches a bit too far. Some of the narrative threads feel a little undercooked and unnecessary even if they are affecting and visually intriguing.

All The Gods In The Sky was seen and reviewed at the BFI London Film Festival 2018.