2020 has been a difficult year for the movies. Aside from all the release schedule changes and production delays, we have collectively found ourselves more in need of accessible entertainment than seemingly ever before. But chalking it up to a mere thirst for escapism doesn’t seem accurate; there’s a reason why Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion became part of the collective conversation once again after we all found ourselves stuck indoors. Cinema has a way of transmitting ideas and moods that can outperform most other artforms, and at this time… there’s a need for something that feels of this time; something that can help make sense of what we’re feeling. Something like Cerulean Blue, perhaps?
A short and bittersweet road movie, Cerulean Blue banks on the classic mismatched duo trope by pitting two sentient extremes against each other. On one side is Jack Michel’s Alex, looking like sad boi Edgar Wright and frequently shown washing his hands due to OCD, in only the first of many eerie reminiscences to today. And on the other side is Senie Priti’s Lily, in overalls and a fuzzy pink hat, serving as the latest instance of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Introvert meets extrovert. Cynic meets hoper. Depressive meets manic.
Teaming up after a chance encounter on the road (and later at a road-stop diner), their interactions and continued attempts to tease details out of each other plays out like social anxiety theatre. The need for some kind, any kind, of human connection conflicting with fears of non-compatibility, or worse, getting hurt all over again. Even its plain-faced archetypes end up falling away to reveal genuine humanity in our leads, making the eventual opening-up and emotional unloading hit particularly hard.
As refracted through a prism of Millennial malaise, where attempts to find a path in life are met with confusion that life even has a path to begin with, writer/director Adrian Ortega squeezes a lot of anguish out of very few words. As drama, its drip-feed pacing lets the quite empathetic gut-punches sneak up on the audience, akin to fellow Aussie emotional creeper Babyteeth. As romance, it treats notions of unrequited love and paints a melancholic picture of how desperate we are, willingly introverted or otherwise, to connect with others. Or reminisce on when we ever did connect with others. Or maybe what we only thought was a connection.
And as a feature that makes it to public release now, it captures a mood that is almost beyond words. The listless trudging forward down a road we’re not even sure we’re supposed to be on, towards a destination we’re not even sure we want to reach, with people we’re not even sure we can connect with… It’s social distancing not as mandate, but as terminal side effect of being human, embodied by a clash of personalities where both can learn a lot from each other… but there’s no guarantee that the disconnect will fade long enough for that to happen.