This one is a very special article, it’s by Taylor; Taylor from the super-popular TaylorHolmes.com (a.k.a THiNC, now this is a bloody cool acronym), your go-to site for Mindjob Movies. Just type “Mindjob Movies” on google and see for yourself. Besides his films, you should check out his Interview section, too – they are super fun and insightful! The kind of movies Taylor and I love and watch are unbelievably similar. We were strangers until Taylor wrote to me saying Hi, and I’m so happy he did. Ladies and Gentlemen, my brother from another mother (you have to read this is Ali G’s voice) … this is Taylor!
I have been a huge fan of www.thisisbarry.com for years now. I have enjoyed Barry’s writeups, his analysis, his insights into clever movies. In this weird underworld of clever movies and complicatedly different films, it’s hard to find movies that are worth scalpeling open. But Barry is always finding great movies to watch and talk about. I’m a great big fan of you Barry!
Well, a couple weeks ago, after remaining aloof for decades, I thought, huh, I wonder if Barry would be cool doing a post exchange? Shake things up a bit, and it would allow us to introduce our readers to each other’s writings if they weren’t aware already. So I was stoked when Barry was stoked about the idea. I’m glad I get a chance to introduce you guys to one of my craziest, and favorite movies… Starfish.
Generally speaking, over on my side of the pond – I try really hard to get movie watchers to find and enjoy fantastic, different, and compelling new movies. But I work even harder to keep readers from reading my posts until they’ve watched the movie. And, to that end, Starfish is over on Amazon Prime – a free stream for Prime members anyway – so, please watch before you go any further… okay? Perfect. I will get your IP address from Barry, and will come and visit you if you continue reading without having watched the movie first. It’s really one of those movies you have to experience for yourself to believe.
Starfish Movie Recommendation and Explanation
Let’s start with the answer key for the pop-quiz at the end. The key to Starfish is that there are two realities happening concurrently. There is the post apocalyptic reality, where aural aliens are invading our planet through a doorway crafted by sound. The other reality is that Aubrey is reeling from the death of her best friend. Oh, that, and guilt. Guilt and Grief, the two gloriously awful twins. But which reality is real? Are they both real? Is one caused by the other? Or is there a gradient here of possible explanations? Let’s dig in and find out shall we?
Even before Starfish opened, it threw me for a loop. Wait, what? It’s based on a true story? Hold up… an alien/postapocalyptic movie that is based on reality? Yes, this is one of the biggest clues we are going to get as to what is going on in this movie actually. A.T. White. Writer and Director. He’s the – “Based on a true story” bit. But we’ll get back to him in a bit.
Starfish opens, with see-sawing images of Aubrey (played by Virginia Gardner) at a funeral, and simultaneously, of images of her skinny dipping at the beach with some fellow. (Grief and Guilt.) I’ll save you the suspense, it’s Aubrey’s best friend’s funeral… Grace (played by Christina Masterson). Get it? Grace? No, of course you don’t. Not yet anyway. Well, regardless, Aubrey finds herself absolutely, and completely torn apart while at the funeral… and puking her brains out under the weight of it all.
The plot kicks off when Alice, a cousin of Grace’s tells Aubrey that Grace kept talking about a particular song. An important song – a song that Grace knew that Aubrey would understand – was talked about during a letter that Grace had recently written. Which, piques Aubrey’s curiosity… so much so, that she goes to Grace’s apartment to find it. And it’s then that she realizes she needs to find the next seven mix-tapes that Grace had hidden. And thus begins this interstellar, psychological, scavenger hunt. They are all hidden in key, and significant locations for the two of them. And maybe, just maybe in the finding, she might even save the world.
But for now, Aubrey just crashes at Grace’s place… and doesn’t leave. And that is when she first encounters the aliens. And that is when she’s saved by the guy on the walkie talkie, who plays a sound that beats the alien back – literally saves her life with audio. Which is when she starts going from location to location, searching for the tapes, and encountering hostile aliens and even more hostile memories from the past. And even more dangerous? Are the conversations she has with her dead best friend in her own mind. In one of these conversations with Grace, she learns that she’s begin to disassociate with the world. Why? What does that mean for the overall movie? The story? It’s purpose? But there is one specific quote I want to draw your attention to between Aubrey and “Grace”.
Aubrey – “Guess I can’t forgive myself. Is this real?”
Grace – “I’m dead, stupid.”
Aubrey – “I mean, is everything happening real?”
Grace – “Do you want it to be real?”
Which, is the core of the question, and the entirety of this movie. Is this real? Is any of it real? Specifically, is the end of the world really happening? And now we are finally getting somewhere. Because this movie may solely be about grief. Grief and the overwhelming effects that grief can have on the grieving. Or. It could be about aliens. We will see.
Regardless of the apocalypse – Aubrey is dealing with overwhelming regret and a desperate need for grace. (And Grace.) Because apparently Aubrey has betrayed Grace’s confidence in some horrific way – and at this point, we already have an idea that it’s probably because of that guy on the beach. No? The funny thing is though – that Grace tells her she cannot make up for it. Whatever that thing was that she did? She it’s impossible for her to make amends for her wrongs.
Starfish Finds a New Gear
Up until now – we’ve had some introspective grief, some mix tapes, a few alien encounter near misses, but nothing extraordinary. Until mix-tape 4. When Aubrey starts playing the tape, she begins jumping from place to place. Until she returns to where she was… but not. This time, she’s surrounded by movie equipment. She sneaks down the stairs, and sees herself, or is it Virginia Gardner, Aubrey’s alternate personality… her actor? Starfish broke the fourth wall. Why though? What just happened? Better yet, a minute later, Aubrey walks in on herself on the beach. Where, this time, Aubrey (the second Aubrey) walks out into the water and drowns the guy. Aubrey just drowned a memory?
As Aubrey heads to a radio station to pick up the last tape – a place where she worked once before – it is there behind a picture of herself with some guy. The location is a message from Grace to her specifically. Regardless, she takes the tapes, and plays them out across the world. When she’s finished playing them she declares that it is finished. The doors are closed.
Someone then connects with Aubrey via radio and asks what she has done. Why has she rebroadcast, amplified the alien signal out across the world? She could have just ended the entirety of the world as we know it!? Aubrey then collects herself, and walks out into the alien dome created by the broadcast. When she does, she begins seeing visions of her relationship with the man. The man in the ocean. The man in the photo at the radio station. The man that has been haunting her visions throughout the entirety of the movie. We then watch as Aubrey floats in the chaos of this space.
Black and White photo #2
The camera then goes to Grace’s grave. It pauses. Then wanders back through Grace’s home. And the video cuts off after looking at the inscription on the back of the photo: “Forgive and Forget. G + A”
Final Thoughts on Starfish…
A.T. White, the writer and the director of Starfish went out into the mountains of Colorado soon after a friend of his passed away, and as his marriage was spiraling to a close. He wrote the screenplay while thinking, and mourning. He assumed the movie would never be made, but the writing was a sort of catharsis. It was a psychological unburdening. So, knowing that, what can we intuit about the movie?
Well, the movie is either 100% about an alien post apocalypse. Or it’s 100% about grief. (Or maybe it’s 100% about post-apocalyptic-grief?) But knowing where A.T. White’s head was when he wrote it I think we can ascertain that Starfish is all about grief. If so, then it means that the death of a loved one, of a best friend, is capable of building worlds inside worlds. Grief stops time, pulls down towers, and builds heart rending connections back to the dead. It can even create a world of aliens and their aural communication methods. But all of that is secondary to the loss of her friend, Grace and the hole it ripped in her heart. And that’s mainly because of the way Aubrey abandoned Grace to die. This could have happened a couple of different ways. But we can surmise that she got caught up in a relationship with a guy from the radio station, and this caused her to miss the fact that her best friend began dying from cancer. To miss out on the last few moments they could have had together. To miss it all entirely, and for nothing.
Quote from A.T. White: “I really love when films are communicating and helping you feel like other people are going through the things you’re going through and can be part of, hopefully, a healing process for yourself. That’s what means the most to me…”
I don’t know – what do you think happened as the movie ended?
Thanks Barry for having me on the blog! I’m just hopeful that a few more people will find this amazing movie as a result of your hospitality! Until next time my friend!!
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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