by Rachel Willis
Still reeling from the loss of her friend, Grace, Aubrey (Virginia Gardner) finds herself facing the end of the world in director A.T. White’s film, Starfish.
After breaking into Grace’s apartment in an attempt to connect to her friend, Aubrey hears a walkie-talkie spring to life. The static coming from the device implies someone might be listening, and Aubrey is momentarily compelled to speak to whoever is on the other end. This is our first hint that not all was well in Grace’s life, with more hints coming before the film takes a deep dive into its world-ending scenario.
There’s a mystery involved that’s best not spoiled, and it isn’t always clear what’s real and what’s imagined, but it works well to us engaged, and haunting images feed the increasing unease.
As a metaphor for grief, Starfish is a curious, interesting take. Aubrey moves through the stages of grief while, outside the apartment, the world is falling apart. She spends time in an apathetic cycle, her only companions a box turtle and a couple of jellyfish (who eat desiccated starfish, apparently). Aubrey’s anger manifests in violent ways, and she’s utterly alone with her sorrow.
Gardner does an excellent job conveying the gauntlet of emotions roiling inside her character. Her performance is easily the film’s strongest element.
There are also a number of exciting and tense scares, and the effectively oppressive score amplifies the more terrifying elements. However, where the score is effective at producing tension, the soundtrack doesn’t always fit the mood. Some of the song choices are out of place. While many of them are meant to represent Aubrey and Grace’s friendship, they disrupt the film’s intensity.
The film takes risks. Some of them work, and some of them don’t, but it’s always intriguing to watch something different, something that challenges us to think outside the box on what a movie can be.