Grief is something we will all unfortunately have to deal with at some point in our lives. Portrayed in many ways previously on the big screen, A.T. White’s debut film Starfish brings it to film lovers in a fresh way. A very modern take on the as long as humans have been on this planet emotion. White, who also penned the screenplay, has mish mashed a lot without making it seem overwhelming or overly busy. You get elements of sci fi, horror, monsters, and even great indie music in Starfish.
Despite the fact that it feels, due to that description, like the issues of loss/death and grief seem like they are being handled in a very esoteric way it is rather gripping and personal. Main character Aubrey (Virginia Gardner – Halloween – 2018) is dealing with a great loss. Her best friend Grace (Christina Masterson – from television’s Power Rangers Megaforce) has recently died.
After attending the wake or actually leaving quickly from it, Aubrey breaks into her deceased friend’s apartment. Her goals are to take what she believes is owed to her and to grieve in private. While she is there we realize how intertwined the lives of the two girls were. Photos of them together are everywhere. Aubrey also tends to Grace’s pets while she is there. Her time in the apartment also includes spying on the neighbours and listening to music. As she is falling asleep, Aubrey unwittingly begins the playing of a mixtape that contains a signal which triggers the beginning of the end…of the planet.
Once she realizes what has happened and is about to happen, Aubrey begins to follow the instructions her friend has left behind. Aubrey begins a quest to find the remaining mixtapes that will allow her to save the world.
So relatable. We have all, when immersed in grief, wanted to shut out the outside world and just exist within our heads and broken hearts. This is exactly what Aubrey is seeking to do. White takes this and combines it very coolly with the idea of armageddon for Earth and humans. They go together like a hand in a glove.
The emotion involved in the film are its best times. While the whole end of days and monsters are cool, it truly is the human element which shines. As A.T. White is a musician (a member of the UK band Ghostlight) it makes complete sense that music plays a big part in the film. Becomes so important to setting the tone and almost another character alongside Aubrey. So powerful at times. How music can transport you to different places and times. Allows us to connect with those no longer with us. Helps with the healing process.
Another strong element of the film is the way it looks. This is an indie film that does not suffer from a small budget. Besides the cinematography, which captures the snow and various landscapes perfectly and is often ethereal, there is also the set design. Both help tell the story. Set design with the articles in Grace’s apartment being vital. Telling part of the story and seeming so authentic. Disorganized as the apartment is it is filled with articles that tell of the friendship between the two young women.
At times you will feel like the story/film is going nowhere or seems rather directionless. Then White grabs it from the fire and sets it back on track. Or more accurately, you realize that it was going there all along. All the goings on – including the music, monsters and stark landscape – contributes to the desired feelings of sadness and anguish, which help move the story forward.