Film Review – Comet (2014)

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Sam Esmail’s debut feature-length film, Comet, proves that the love film clichés have not yet been done to death – all that is needed is a fresh take. Esmail’s dream-like directorial style is perfectly encapsulated by one of protagonist Dell’s pivotal lines “…so you want life to be a painting?”. Like a painting, Comet is beautiful to look at and remains completely open to interpretation by its audience.

The non-linear storyline is comprised of various different points of a young couple’s relationship – beginning with their meeting, and then following them through their hardships and reconciliations. Dell (played by Justin Long), the pessimist who doesn’t believe in love and is very quick to refute its very existence, starts off as the babbling, awkward character Long tends to play, however as the relationship progresses, he matures and shows a great deal of talent as a dramatic actor. Following the inevitable love film cliché, Dell falls in love with Kimberly (played by Emmy Rossum) who is his exact opposite – an innocent and shy girl who is in love with the idea of love. Rossum’s character also comes into her own as the relationship grows; her personality becomes bolder, making the different timelines (eventually) easy to differentiate. Having a minimal cast (of only approximately 10 characters, most of them serving a background role) really puts the focus on this couple that have become introverted together, and the struggle to escape that this leads to.

Esmail’s directing style revolves around beautiful off-centre camera angles which challenge traditional film-making, putting a focus on whatever he chooses – be it a character’s emotion, the setting they find themselves in, or even something in the background (a personal favourite of mine being a restaurant sign in the background of a particular scene, entitled ‘Infedelios’, as the couple argue over the phone about some of Dell’s suspicions). The breath-taking (fake) scenery also becomes a focal point of Esmail’s film-making; it is as if the director is flicking through channels on a high-resolution, illusory television. Comet is not about the chronology of the pivotal characters’ relationship, it focuses more on their conversation and connection – which may explain the surreal ‘channel flicking’ theme – the setting they find themselves in is not important, it could be anywhere at all. It’s about being in a timeless love, as Kimberly says, one “like a painting – no beginning, no middle, no end”.

The original music by Daniel Hart (who also composed for ‘Ain’t Them Bodies Saints’ and ‘Pioneer’) anchors the characters’ emotions and connection perfectly, building tension as arguments ensue and completely lowering the tone as the protagonists begin to relax around one another. The soundtrack is also very well put together – one highlight being ‘Love More’ written by Sharon Van Etten, as the couple rekindle after meeting on a train, epitomising both Dell and Kimberley’s perception of their relationship.

The phrase ‘style over substance’ does slightly come to mind with Comet, but with Esmail’s beautiful directorial voice, and his innovative storytelling and filming techniques, it’s very clear that this is a director on his way to shaping modern cinema. Comet is a fantastic film if you enjoyed the look of Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘Drive’ and the story of Marc Webb’s ‘(500) Days of Summer’.

Jenn Spiers

Dir.Sam Esmail, USA, 2014 | Drama, Romance |Release Date: 3rd July 2015 (UK) |Distributor: Content Media | Rating: 15 | Cast: Justin Long, Emmy Rossum, Kayla Servi, Eric Winter