It’s said that we smile to hide our grief. For some, it’s safer to wear a friendly face while burying their sorrows – but such a choice can lead to total madness.
Midday Black Midnight Blue by Samantha Soule and Daniel Talbott easily conveys this idea by exploring the life of a grief-stricken man. The film follows Ian (Chris Stack), who’s consumed by the loss of Liv (Samantha Soule), a lover who committed suicide following a brief affair. Ian lives alone with his demons in a lakeside home in Washington. Surrounded by beauty and tranquility, it does little to provide a refuge from his past. As he slowly loses touch with reality, Ian must find ways to cope with the loss of Liv before succumbing to the same madness that consumed her.
Midday Black Midnight Blue effortlessly portrays the burden of grief, and viewers will easily relate to Ian’s struggles. He turns neither to drugs nor alcohol to cope with his depression, thankfully, but without these resources to distract him, he becomes a broken shell of a man. Chris Stack offers a very impressive performance as Ian, who becomes relatable from the outset. In private, he’s unkempt and slowly withering away. With others – be it in the present or in the past – he’s charming and joyful, albeit superficially. Stack offers many masks for Ian to wear, and it perfectly reflects the struggles one goes through to balance grief with life.
His counterpart, director Samantha Soule, also gives quite the performance as the flawed and personally tormented Liv. As with Ian, she struggles not only with a grievous wrong she committed but also tries to balance her feelings towards another man with her feelings towards Ian. The result is a downward spiral from which she cannot come back. Together, Stack and Soule carry the weight of the film. They share a great deal of chemistry that keeps us invested in their time together, whether in anger or happiness.
Midday Black Midnight Blue is also both literally and figuratively a dark film. The lead characters live in their own personal darkness or under an imposing shadow, usually in Ian’s darkened home. Thankfully, the film is merciful enough to include lighter moments and is quite colorful. Ian’s flashbacks to happier times place him and Liv in the daylight, often with the serene Washington nature in the background. Said moments highlight the clash between joy and heartache, and they deliver some respite after much darkness.
On this note, unfortunately, Soule and Talbott wind up focusing too much on darkness and depression. Well within 30 minutes of the watch, we’re left hoping for someone – or something – to come through to pull Ian out of his hole. This does indeed happen, but far too late in the film for us to care. The audience faces a long and dreary battle as Ian’s grief takes over his life and the film’s overall arc. His sadness is broken up by flashbacks of happier times occasionally, but these moments occur sporadically, leaving us overwhelmed.
Midway through the film, the focus shifts to the deterioration of Ian’s mental state, and this is where everything begins to come apart (in terms of the film). From flashbacks to hallucinations, we sense the madness consuming Ian. He walks in on Liv seducing her lover, and she doesn’t notice because it’s in his imagination. Such a scene – and more like them – come unannounced and result in unnecessary confusion. Without proper pacing or better context to these scenes, what could easily be a compelling psychological drama ends up being an exhausting watch.
If anything, Soule’s film could have benefitted from a more fleshed-out subplot involving another individual or event coming into Ian’s life. It could have been a stranger or a book of memories – anything to make Ian’s battle more navigable. Or it could have followed the five stages of grief in sequential order. These stages are present for sure, but as with everything else in this film, they go unnoticed or get lost.
Midday Black Midnight Blue can be commended for trying to showcase the burdens of loss and betrayal. It does offer an interesting look at a depressed soul for what it’s worth – but it does it just a little too well. More lighter moments and a smoother plotline could have made Ian’s journey to recovery both compelling and inspirational, but we’re left with a long and sometimes dull take on grief. On a positive note, Stack and Soule’s performances keep it from being a complete waste of time, and viewers will appreciate what they bring to an otherwise complicated watch.
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Midday Black Midnight Blue takes a decent shot at the subject of grief. Chris Stack and Samantha Soule give good performances that keep it from sinking, but the overall story is too dreary in the absence of lighter moments.
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