If there’s one universal truth among all people, it’s that we all want to feel like we belong. Aurora (Camille Rowe) has been in search of that truth ever since her mother was taken from her when Aurora was just a youth. Aurora insists that her mother was taken by aliens, but everyone around her refuses to listen, trying to label and diagnose her instead.
The depression and ache leads her to to the titular UFO cult, Cosmic Dawn. Director Jefferson Moneo’s latest feature tackles with the concept of how people can connect with one another through tragedy. Every member of Cosmic Dawn has had to cope with the disappearance of a loved one. In many instances, these encounters with individuals who have experienced similar heartbreaks can be beneficial therapeutic.
But in a space of emotional openness, there will always be those that tries to take advantage. In Cosmic Dawn, that snake oil salesman takes the form of Elyse (Antonia Zegers), the founder of the ‘extraterrestrial religion’. Her indistinguishable accent, hypnotic gaze, and apparent omnipresence swoons and moves the members of Cosmic Dawn, Aurora included.
When there is a metaphorical fox in the emotional henhouse, how does one move on and escape? That’s what Cosmic Dawn tries to answer as the film time jumps between Aurora processing her mother’s loss in the cult and the young woman coping with the psychological damage in the wake of Cosmic Dawn. The structure becomes slightly confusing at times as there’s little to separate the past and present timelines.
The third act clears up most of those continuity issues, but opens a whole new can of worms in the process. The final thirty minutes of Cosmic Dawn undoes all the poignant themes that are established in the first two thirds and possibly ruins the film as a whole. The ending is unearned and feels disingenuous to the characters and their development.
With beautiful visual effects, strong performances, and a killer score, Cosmic Dawn had the potential to be the sci-fi version of Martha Marcy May Marlene. Unfortunately, the last third nearly ensures that Moneo’s film will not be the dawn of a new era of movies about cults.
The Silver Lining
Alan Howarth’s techno score is just what Cosmic Dawn needed for a sci-fi cult drama. Howarth’s work feels like it was pulled from a forgotten era, which lends itself nicely to the alien aspect of the feature. The techno compositions also give Cosmic Dawn an upbeat eerie tone.
Virtual Tickets are still available for Cosmic Dawn as part of NIGHTSTREAM 2021’s lineup. Get your tickets here until October 13th.