That slightly odd title (where’s the missing ‘the’?) hints at the leftfield vibe of this New Orleans-set murder mystery. Written and directed by Carol Morley (’The Falling’), ’Out of Blue’ is based very loosely on a 1997 Martin Amis novel, ‘Night Train’, and opens with the unexplained fatal shooting of a young woman, Jennifer (Mamie Gummer), an astronomer with various people in her life who might bear some responsibility for her death. There’s her nervy boss (Toby Jones); her patrician ex-military father (James Caan); her fruitcake mum (Jacki Weaver); her manic boyfriend; and her creepy twin brothers. It’s a surreal, Mississippi-flavoured spin on Cluedo, with a mood that flips disconcertingly from deadly serious to tongue-in-cheek and back again.
At the heart of it is a female detective called Mike (Patricia Clarkson), whose steely exterior masks the strange reaction the case is provoking in her. Are those clues Mike is seeing, or hallucinations? Is something in her own past catching up with her, triggered by the murder and all the heady talk of the cosmos? There’s a lot going on, presented in puzzling fragments, but none of it adds up to a traditional whodunnit. It feels more like an existential dream influenced by the movies, with a hint of ‘Chinatown’ here, a nod to David Lynch there. For all the mystery and awe, too often it feels muted and visually flat. But you can’t knock a filmmaker for reaching for the stars, even if ‘Out of Blue’ stalls in a lay-by somewhere halfway to Venus.