Starfish (2019) Movie Review: A Wonderfully Ambitious Sci-Fi Pic About Grief

Starfish has a jumbled narrative yet is wonderfully jumbled due to its inventiveness and focus on human emotion.
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Starfish is an ambitious piece of science fiction that manages to keep afloat despite its attempt to juggle two vastly different storylines. The film aims to be both a poignant demonstration of grief and a post-apocalyptic monster movie at once. While both stories don’t exactly blend together, Starfish still thrives thanks to its immense panache and a commanding performance from its leading actress. 

The storyline follows Aubrey (Virginia Gardner) who’s reeling from the death of her best friend, Grace (Christina Masterson). However, after spending time in Grace’s apartment, the world becomes invaded by monsters from another dimension and Aubrey becomes left to her own devices. As the monsters terrorize her town, she roams her deserted town and searches for mixtapes that Grace left for her.

Because there isn’t any action in this monster movie that one would typically expect, there are those that may be underwhelmed or find the picture rather aimless. However, its lack of action still makes it a breath of fresh air. It is ingenious to see a monster movie or a post-apocalyptic movie become such a daring mood piece even if the significance of the monsters becomes unclear.

What do these monsters symbolize? Do they reflect how our world is full of monsters? Are these creatures meant to remind Aubrey how she must confront her personal demons rather than avoid them? Is her aimless journey across her deserted town an illustration of her ignoring her battles and holding onto her past? The mixtapes that she listens to do allow her to shut herself out from the world around her. So, maybe they serve as a mechanism for Aubrey to escape her pain.

As for Virginia Gardner as Aubrey, she carries this film quite well. She demonstrates Aubrey’s grief effortlessly and without the use of grand histrionics. Instead, she presents her with an unearthly tranquility that shows Aubrey’s willingness to continuously cling onto her sorrow and regret. Even in the first twenty to thirty minutes which are rather slow, Gardner makes the picture watchable.

During those particular minutes at the beginning of the film, Aubrey is mostly contained in Grace’s apartment. As a result, the monster invasion becomes rather abrupt. That being said, the isolated setting does allow Starfish to attempt at making it seem like it’ll be a piece of claustrophobic horror even if it’s mostly science fiction.

In conclusion, Starfish does indeed aim for the stars with its zealous storytelling and meditative execution. Even if the apocalyptic plot points and grief storyline don’t always go hand in hand, it is still wonderful to see a genre film done with such profundity and it is a promising debut from writer/director/composer A.T. White.

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