- 19 Sep - 25 Sep, 2020
- 08 Aug - 14 Aug, 2020
Proximity wears its old-school sci-fi heart on its sleeve, beginning with the Close Encounters-quoting pow of an opening and flipping through a catalog of movie references. The homage, however endearing, proves limiting too for this tale of alien abduction, wide-eyed innocents and covert government baddies. Good-looking and technically well crafted, the film struggles to get past pastiche and conjure an involving world of its own.
Ryan Masson brings an apt otherworldly quality to the role of Isaac, a computer engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. His youthfulness, though, is distracting; at first we wondered if he was a student enrolled in a special program. Isaac is struggling with some sort of trauma, perhaps involving his father's death. This is never made entirely clear, but Eric Demeusy's screenplay uses that character angle to introduce Isaac's habitual use of a camera for therapeutic video-diary purposes. The camera is with him when, during a mountain hike, he witnesses a meteor crash, sees a spinning saucer and looks into the eyes of an extraterrestrial.
Returned to his life with a three-day memory gap, an unsettled feeling, and a hurting arm, Isaac gets concerned looks from his colleagues (Max Cutler, Kylie Contreary). Determined to connect with people who have had similar experiences, he posts his video evidence of the event, prompting the usual mix of comments from grateful believers and derisive naysayers who declare him a fraud.
From there, Isaac's story turns into a search for people who believe him. Enter Sara (Highdee Kuan), a frustratingly undeveloped love interest/kindred spirit. When they rendezvous in a diner after Isaac has read one of her online posts, she doesn't seem to know why she's there. The audience certainly doesn't – until she mentions something she read that brings the movie's Alaska-set prologue into play. It isn't suspense that Demeusy stirs up over Sara's backstory so much as confusion and apathy; when, late in the action, she reveals something about her close encounter, it makes no difference.
Mitcheltree's cinematography is strong throughout, and Jermaine Stegall contributes a smart score, in sync with the overall vintage sensibility. It's too bad that Demeusy chooses to slather a number of scenes with synth-pop songs (by Radio Wolf in collaboration with Parallels), the first signal of the movie's tonal uncertainty. As a director, Demeusy knows how to craft individual scenes; maybe on his next outing he'll make them add up.