In our information-soaked age, it’s hard to stop and listen. With something new in front of our eyes every few seconds, we have no idea what we don’t hear.
The Vast of Night, a 2019 movie now streaming on Amazon, is an exercise in listening. Watching the movie is like sitting down with an older family member and catching glimpses of their memories before our eyes. Framed as an episode of a show like The Twilight Zone, this isn’t a direct copy of classic television. Some of the language would be better left unheard.
On a Friday night like any other in 1958, the Cayuga, N.M., high school basketball team prepares to lose another game, but nearly everyone in town is there to cheer for them anyway. After meeting in the gym, the local DJ, Everett (Jake Horowitz), walks Fay (Sierra McCormick) to work for her evening shift at the town switchboard. He’s on his way to the radio station. Talking and smoking at lightning speed, Everett teaches her how to record an interview, and she tells him about a future that sounds a lot like our present day.
Right after Fay gets the radio tuned into Everett’s show, she receives an eerie sound through the switchboard and the radio at the same time. Everett in turn broadcasts the sound, asking if anyone out there knows what it is. An old man calling himself Billy (Bruce Davis) recognizes the sound from his time in the military, and calls in to share his story. Though we never see Billy, we see Everett and Fay as we process what he says. Sometimes the screen fades to black, and we’re left just listening.
Soon there are strange objects and lights in the sky. The phone rings again. This time it’s a shut-in named Mabel Blanche (Gail Cronauer) who asks Everett to come to her house where she will explain everything. Sitting in her dark living room, Mabel offers up some local history and how it’s intertwined with her life. “The sky people have always liked this place.”
Mabel believes that the sky people (the words “aliens” and “extraterrestrials” are never used) sometimes take people, and have the technology to beam thoughts into our minds. While I don’t know that the filmmakers intend to draw a parallel between the way we’re bombarded with information today and the way that the encounters with the sky people can cause people to do strange things, if not go completely catatonic, the idea is there.
In 2 Corinthians we’re told to take every thought captive to obey Christ. Sometimes that requires stopping and listening, not just to what is coming at us, but also to ourselves. Where are these thoughts coming from, and are they true?
The aliens haunting a small New Mexican town on a quiet night is well-worn. But we’ve never experienced it quite this way. This is a movie that demands to be heard even more than it asks to be seen. (Amazon Studios)