If you’ve ever been in love, you know that there are times when emotions work as if controlled by someone else, and other times when the person you’re with can be a complete stranger, despite how much adoration you feel for them. Sam Esmail’s directorial debut, Comet, attempts to convey love’s most complicated moments in a series of big events from one couple’s years-long relationship, but in a non-linear way that mashes everything together with only a minimal amount of rhyme and reason. So yeah, I guess it’s just like being in a relationship.
Less interested in space bodies than human bodies, Comet stars Justin Long and Emmy Rossum as the narcissistic blabbermouth Dell and Kimberly, who gets the short end of the character development stick. While Dell and his doomsaying attitude are often aggravating, and Kimberly’s wanton dismissal of clear monogamy isn’t really explained, these two actors and their gung-ho performances are the best things that Comet has to offer. They play people I don’t like, but they do it well.
In a world that’s a few parallel universes over (info gleaned from an informative title card), Dell and Kimberly meet at a park where a crowd has gathered to watch a meteor shower. He’s just finding out that his mother has cancer, and she’s on a date with a mustached guy who hates New York and the Beatles after Pete Best left. Bizarre meet-cute sparks that build up between them in a scene that is stretched out over the course of the entire film.
Audiences also get to experience a handful of other incidents in Dell and Kimberly’s courtship, though none of them are as positive as this initial introduction. We get to see them have an argument-filled long-distance phone call, with Rossum rocking the craziest wig I’ve seen since American Hustle. There’s also a potential proposal inside of a hotel room, a post-break-up conversation on a train, and much more. Comet is really just six or so scenes laid out and overlapped for what one would assume is maximum enjoyment, but it all feels kind of sloppy.
Which isn’t to say the film looks sloppy. Not in the least. Esmail and cinematographer Eric Koretz create some really powerful shots throughout the film, and most of them are no more complicated than just letting the camera hang off-center. There are some “special effects” when the timelines switch over, but mostly this is simply a movie about two people trying to work things out.
Though the science fiction is relegated to the parallel universe conceit (as well as a shot of two suns in a skyline), there is a certain dissonance to Comet that makes it welcome alongside films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Love. There is always a feeling that something is about to go off the deep end, and that Dell will have a meaningful revelation that can explain why love is the way it is. But maybe we’re better off not knowing.
Rent or purchase Comet on iTunes and other VOD sites.