If the world didn’t appear to be lurching from headache-inducing crisis to crisis on a daily basis, any other news cycle might have found more time for the U.S. government’s recent release of UFO footage. And those who believe, really do believe; a big plus point for special effects artist turned writer/director Eric Demusey’s Proximity is that it gets straight to the point, with a massive flying saucer in the opening scene, and spindly aliens walking the earth while most films are still dithering with their credits.
But what kind of film is Proximity? It takes a while to get a precise handle on the narrative, but indie sci-fi tends to be super-serious and ideas driven, Kin, Upgrade and The Signal all come to mind. But Proximity has more of a dash of retro-80’s sci-fi, somewhere between Flight of the Navigator and War Games. It’s the story of Isaac (Ryan Masson) who heads into a valley with a video-camera intended to record his video diary for therapy. Instead, he captures evidence of a UFO landing, but his media fame leads to unwanted interest from government agents, who kidnap him. Isaac escapes, and heads off to British Columbia to track down a set of co-ordinates that might lead him to a second encounter.
Proximity deals with a subject that’s been handled with a po-face in the past, but the very mild language, lack of gunplay (lasers instead) and incredibly goofy-looking government robots which pursue Isaac suggest that we’re in Escape to Witch Mountain territory; this is an unashamed family film which takes a metaphysical turn in the final scenes. There’s a Christian sub-text which abruptly becomes the main text, and that may both attract and frustrate audiences because it’s not been sufficiently foreshadowed in the script.
But Proximity is a likeable film which actually does better than might be expected with shop-worn plot elements; Isaac is aware that his adventure is a cliché, and the film cleverly leans into this idea. The way Isaac escapes from a test-lab and dodges robot henchmen in the jungles of Costa-Rica has the logic of a dream, and the boggle-eyed appearance of said robots, pictured above, should give you some idea of whether you’ll enjoy this film or not.
A feature can be a calling card for a new director; Proximity suggest a big uptick in terms of Demusey’s stock, handling actors, effects and a decent-sized production with skill. And there’s something child-like but beguiling about the basic nature of this story; very few directors manage a great film off-the-bat, but Proximity’s wide-eyed credulous attitude, ingenious effects and home-spun values make for some fun family fare.
In the UK, Signature Entertainment present Proximity on Digital HD from May 18th
In the US, try https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/proximity/id1504190041