You know the first sip you take of a great cup of coffee? It’s your first cup of the day and the taste and smell flows all over you in a way that makes it more of an EXPERIENCE than a cup of coffee? And no matter how great that coffee is, nothing compares to the first sip?
Well, that’s how I describe my experience with director Jeff Nichols.
I was introduced to Nichols back in 2011 through his movie Take Shelter. It starred Michael Shannon as a man whose repeated visions could be signaling something sinister, like an oncoming apocalypse. I remember spontaneously bursting into tears at the end of the film and how chills ran up and down my legs.
Take Shelter was my #1 film of 2011 and I still recommend it to friends today.
Jeff Nichols released Mud a year later to even more critical acclaim. It featured Matthew McConaughey and some phenomenal child actors (Tye Sheridan as Ellis and Jacob Lofland as Neckbone, the greatest character name EVER). Mud had a strong story but it lacked the supernatural glow of Take Shelter, so I was mildly disappointed.
Now Jeff Nichols brings us Midnight Special, the story of a young boy who may be a prophet, or possibly something more dangerous. It once again features an exceptional cast, including Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton and Nichols’ Take Shelter star, Michael Shannon. Midnight Special also features a talented child-star, Jaeden Lieberher, but the story is REALLY confusing. It’s so vague, in fact, that I struggle to put it into words. Figuring everything out as events unfold is part of Midnight Special‘s charm, but it also culminates into an unsatisfying ending. I have some massive complaints about the big reveal as well, but I can’t discuss them without giving it all away. Call me after you see it and we can review the parallels between Midnight Special and a certain George Clooney picture that will go unnamed for now.
A confusing/slightly disappointing Jeff Nichols film is still far better than most others, though. I didn’t love Midnight Special, but it does have that strange Jeff Nichols vibe I love so much, like a melancholy that shimmers around the edges. It probably isn’t fair to compare Midnight Special to Take Shelter, either. After all, nothing will ever measure up to that first taste of something delicious. I’ll keep trying though, and will continue sampling whatever Jeff Nichols has to offer. –B