AT White’s STARFISH: Autobiography Told Through Nightmare and Contemplation

When director AT White says that Starfish, his latest film, is based on a true story, you may not expect gates to some hell-like dimension and horrifying creatures. On the other hand, when real life smacks you in the face, it can often like the end of the world. In White’s film, Aubrey (Virginia Gardner of Halloween 2019 and Marvel’s The Runaways) breaks into the home of her recently deceased best friend to discover a mysterious mixtape. From that moment, we are taken on a journey where fact and fiction are blurred – we share in Aubrey’s journey of pain, trauma, and, perhaps, some healing.

Sound plays a vital role in this film. Sometimes, it is quiet and serene. Other times, it is soundtracked by stellar indie rock and pop tunes. And, yet others, there is a beautiful score behind the scenes. No matter the moment, the sound feels deliberate and exquisitely planned out. Deafening silence gives way to the perfect song, before the silence eventually creeps back in. If not the most impressive thing about this film, the sound design is certainly up there among the top.

The other incredible standout here is the way Virginia Gardner is able to be the only human being on screen throughout 90% of the film without becoming dull or lackluster. She is captivating throughout – whether she’s laying in contemplation or immersed in a horrifying nightmare. She has an incredible and emotionally complex presence throughout the film. Her raw talent and beauty is on display here; it truly elevates the film to the point that it’s hard to imagine this film working the same way with another actress in the role.

This is part genre film and part art film. It is part horror film and part coming of age story. This movie is contemplative. This movie is intense. This movie is quiet. However, in moments, the movie can be loud. It’s an experience that can’t be summed up in mere words. The metaphor, the mixtapes, the sorrow, the pain – Starfish is nothing if not a visceral experience of love and loss.

thepaintedman
Justin has been running websites since his first Geocities site in 1994, but only did he ever start covering anything of substance years later. After he stopped regularly running local concerts in Northern NJ and the greater Philly area, he knew he needed to step up his writing game if he expected to continue to get free music to listen to. He writes regularly here, at Cinapse, and at Rock on Philly... as well as on occasion at Cinepunx. He previously wrote for several other sites, but he forgets some of them and others no longer exist. He likes music, film, the Philadelphia Eagles, talking about Criminal Justice, reading Intelligence Report, and his family... not in that order. His beautiful wife is far more talented than he is and his kids far more adorable... and crazy.
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