Isaac Cypress (Ryan Masson) is a young man working for NASA, who picks up a strange signal at work just as his therapist tells him to record a video diary to help with his feelings. Isaac goes on a hike and observes something land near him and, lo and behold, manages to record a real-life alien. Isaac suddenly disappears, only to wake up a few days later without any memory of what happened to him, yet certain he was abducted by the aliens. His recording of the alien goes viral online, but no one believes him, leading him on a journey to find out what really happened to him.
Writer-director Eric Demeusy has crafted an impressive career in visual effects, his credits include Stranger Things, Game of Thrones and Tron: Legacy and as expected, Proximity’s visual effects are superb. They blend in brilliantly with the real locations and the alien aircrafts have an ethereal quality to them, creating a look that’s both plausible and futuristically sleek.
Proximity has a lot going on and, typically for a debut director, it’s a tonal mess. It can never quite settle on a mood or a narrative, rather just keeps reinventing itself at every story turn, making for a chaotic film. Every great creative decision is followed by a confusing one and it seems to straddle being an intimate character drama and a big action thriller, neither of which it does convincingly.
Masson does an impeccable job as Isaac, navigating his emotions and the narrative with ease. Even if Demeusy’s script doesn’t reveal much about Isaac or give him much of a personality, Masson injects the character with warmth and humanity. Highdee Kuan is certainly likeable as fellow 'victim' Sara, but like all of Demeusy’s characters, she isn’t given much to do or say that’s meaningful on an individual character level.
Shaw Jones shows up as a shady agent who threatens Isaac’s freedom, but the character feels like a Men in Black-parody, as does the film on the whole towards the end. What starts out as a messy, but very loveable film suddenly becomes downright laughable. Proximity is a film with very little empathy for its characters, it can’t properly communicate the huge trauma they have encountered (and survived) or the lasting effects of this as well as the public humiliation following it. Isaac seems relatively unchanged by his experience and is motivated by finding out the truth after he is embarrassed on live TV, and while it’s refreshing not to revel in the trauma of an abduction story, the characters seem only very shallowly affected by the events.
Despite all of this, the film has an almost Spielbergian feel to it. It’s filled with wonder and, clearly, love for the genre and the film offers a lot in terms of visuals as well as the organic cinematography by Jason Mitcheltree. Proximity shows adequate promise for Demeusy. Yes, his style may still be wildly unrefined, this film has so much going on to be a coherent or completely satisfying film, but his unique take on the traditional alien abduction trope is at the very least different and interesting.
Proximity is released digitally on May 18.