Spaceship isn’t an easy film to describe. But, suffice to say, if the synopsis seems strange, it’s an even more idiosyncratic film in execution.
In the affluent commuter belt south west of London, Lucidia (Alexa Davies), a young cyber goth who lives alone with her Finnish father (Antti Reini, with his lovely Scandinavian rumble), disappears. Luke (Lucian Charles Collier) managed to catch a glimpse of her final moments and he’s adamant there’s something out-of-this world going on: an alien abduction, perhaps? Rather than being shocked by this turn of events, Lucidia’s likeminded friendship group are pretty nonchalant about it all, but they do use her disappearance as jet fuel for their faux-philosophical musings.
It’s quite a while before this inciting incident occurs. Alex Taylor (writer-director, making his feature debut) keeps the narration moving from character to character, allowing us to gradually build up a picture of these idiosyncratic individuals, but more importantly to begin to get our head around this bizarre group. We get a sense of how the individuals feed into the whole, and learn about each character’s role in the collective. It’s quite a symbiotic group dynamic, but Tallulah Haddon’s enigmatic Rose seems to lead the pack.
The film is one of many at this year’s London Film Festival to explore a subcultural youth group from an outsider’s perspective. American Honey has it, and so does this: the conduit, in this case, being Lucidia’s father. He becomes increasingly acquainted with the group as he searches for his daughter, and they become less and less alien to him, as they do to us. As he drifts through the neon party at the film’s conclusion, his long jacket strikes the silhouette of a detective nearing the end of his investigation. It’s a wonderfully cast ensemble. Each and every face is distinctive and grabs the attention. Collier‘s warm, bold facial shape and his expressive features reminded me of a stoned Heath Ledger, and no performance feels anything less than genuine.
These are young people that are disenfranchised, and disengaged, from our world, but firmly connected to their own. It’s a world that, despite looking much like ours, plays by a different set of rules. A briefly glimpsed teacher early on is as close as we get to an authority figure. Lucidia’s father doesn’t even come close, as her friends frequently run rings around him. Quirky side characters fill the frame, and Taylor’s spotlight spins over to some of them at certain points. These subplots are miles from the central narrative drive, but broaden the scope of this uncanny parallel universe.
The whole film has a trippy feel to it and all with little explicit drug use. So when the tabs come out during the finale, the stunning neon imagery is suitably striking. It’s a terrific sequence and cements Taylor‘s status as a distinctive visual stylist. While the narrative and the character beats sometimes play out in a hazy manner (verging on the uncertain), his visuals are crisp and purposeful throughout. But, in keeping with these kids, it’s as much a musical experience, as it is a visual one. Taylor assembles a spunky soundtrack album of synthy pop tracks, which accompanies the drama really well.
It can be difficult to take any substantial meaning from a film stocked with a host of young characters all spouting faux-philosophy. Everybody Wants Some!! managed to get over that hurdle, and Spaceship makes it over too, albeit at the last minute. When this interesting trip seems destined to be as shallow as its characters, Taylor‘s focus hones in right at the death and delivers what I saw to be the big emotional kicker.
There’s not a whole lot of horror in Spaceship, but I’d like to think our community are open to embracing the weird and the wonderful, whatever form it may take. And, in that regard, Spaceship certainly fits the bill.
The film screened as part of the London Film Festival.