It’s really frustrating to me when I can see what a filmmaker was going for with their film – when I think I’m grasping their vision – but that vision just isn’t executed well. Such is the case with Serenity.
Writer/director Steven Knight has something very specific that he is trying to accomplish here. He is attempting to masquerade a high-concept science fiction film as a psychological thriller. It doesn’t really work, but I still give him a lot of credit for trying.
This film comes from a deeply personal place – one that just about anyone can relate to. It’s a story about a father longing for his son and vice versa. Even though the whole thing is very unconventional, this is apparent all the way through. And by the end, when the payoff is simply odd and perhaps a little bit confusing, you still want to give credit to the people involved in the project for shooting for the moon, even though they crashed before reaching the tree line.
Matthew McConaughey, who plays the main character of Baker Dill, is giving this movie his all. As a fisherman who has to catch the one specific fish so he can go home and see his son, he portrays a tired desperation that’s honestly heartbreaking at points. In a way, his performance reminded me of Interstellar. He’s going all out and doing his best work. The only difference is the quality of the movie.
Serenity begins to falter when it shows its hand. For about three quarters of the movie, it kept things close to the chest, while giving little glimpses here and there of what it might be about. But once we find out what has really been going on the whole time, the stakes are lessened and we cease to care about the characters. It’s really a shame, because up until that point, it is easy to stay hooked to the story.
But once it loses you, you’re gone. The film can’t recover from its hefty aspirations. Even so, I really enjoyed this movie. It’s not really well-written (surprising, considering this is the same person who wrote and directed Locke), but it comes from a place of passion and originality. That’s something I want to encourage when going to the cinema, so props to you Serenity.