Like a low-key Interstellar, Sam Esmail’s first feature film, Comet, looks to the sky to piece together that puzzle known as love. Though his characters never leave Earth, Esmail transports the viewer to a switching parallel universe where we meet a couple at pivotal moments in their six-year relationship.
It’s a sweeping exploration that’s brought to life by an atmospheric score from Daniel Hart, two excellent leads and a keen attention to visual detail. It is a shame, then, that the screenplay lets it down by falling into strained meta-heavy conversations that aim for the natural demeanour of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, but never reach that same level of nuance.
Justin Long and Emmy Rossum are cast as the star-crossed lovers, Dell and Kimberly, who are strangely drawn to one another when they meet at a meteor shower at Hollywood Forever cemetery, where she saves his life. Dell is a neurotic know-it-all and Kimberly a free spirit. He’s insufferable, but somehow she is charmed by his downbeat observations on life.
Though these cookie-cutter indie archetypes may grate at first, they take on a life of their own as the film goes on. Esmail crafts a story that starts off shaky, but matures into a reflection on the bigger picture, though an odd need to over explain possible different outcomes and realities jars in the final throes.
Rossum and Long have chemistry which ignites during a disastrous day spent at a hotel in Paris, where they get stoned and argue under the vibrant lights dotted around their room.
With the emphasis mainlyon Dell’s memories and feelings about their break-up, this scene
gives Rossum time to shine, and she’s wonderful. The entire film swoons to an otherworldly vibe thanks to skilful work from cinematographer Eric Koretz and pared-down but eye-catching set design from Annie Spitz.
Esmail’s debut feature suffers from certain contrivances, and you should probably steer clear of it if you’re allergic to (500) Days Of Summer, but it’s also an ambitious and striking effort.