Directors: Elliot Weaver and Zander Weaver
Writers: Elliot Weaver and Zander Weaver
Stars: Tom England, Joshua Ford, Arjun Singh Panam, Ben Vardy
Cosmos is the debut feature by brothers Elliot and Zander Weaver and follows the story of three friends who drive out to the middle of nowhere to listen to the cosmos in their car, which is kitted out with all sorts of a technology suited for the job.
As the night goes on they become more and more convinced that the signal they’ve intercepted isn’t just a glitch in their equipment or a random pulsar, but that they’ve made contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence.
Apparently made without any budget, Cosmos is an incredible achievement. The usual things that let down no-budget productions, and believe me, I’ve seen a lot of them, are; sub-par acting, bad lighting, bad sound, and unconvincing props, but Cosmos suffers from none of these failings. The acting is natural and believable, the props never once look out of place and the post-production on the sound and picture make the finished movie look as professional as anything you’d see in your local multiplex.
If there is a weak link in the production it’s probably the script. The first hour needs to be about half as long and get to the crux of the story quicker, and there’s enough superfluous chat in there to do this without losing anything vital to the story. The film could also benefit from a bit more explanation of what they’re actually doing/ trying to do out there. The technical aspects are incredibly well researched but a simple analogy or two would make the plot easier to understand for the layman who knows nothing about astronomy. The structure in general could use a bit of re-jigging. There are several heartfelt conversations that all come one after another and would probably work better if they were spaced out more and inserted earlier. The script is still better than most low-budget indie films I see, but the rookie mistakes like using the characters’ names too often in dialogue show their relative inexperience with narrative film-making. Screenwriting is something you never fully master, you just learn how to do it better with each project, and I’m sure this pair’s next script will show that.
The directing is another matter though. I have rarely seen directors at this (lack of) budget level who are so self-assured behind the camera. The composition of shots – using little more than a couple of lighting gels, a camera slider, and a smoke machine – make this look extremely cinematic where so many other films in this budget range just look like home movies. The choices on close-ups and dolly shots inside the claustrophobic car location show the Weaver brothers are just as adept at handling the small personal scenes as they are handling the frantic race against time which leads to the film’s finale. I’ve said it many times: there are people who point the camera at the actors, and then there are directors. The Weaver Brothers are the latter and display a talent I rarely see when viewing films with budgets large or small.
The tone of the film is akin to Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, even if it does take place in a Carpool Karaoke setting most of the time. If the script had a more substantial B-plot dealing with our heroes’ personal lives, I think it would’ve connected better. Are they married? What do their partners think of this pursuit? What are they sacrificing to continue doing this and why? It still has a fantastic ending that did give me chills, thanks in no small part to the excellent and soaring score by Chris Davey which never once betrays the lack of money behind this project.
The Weaver brothers’ background in documentary film-making has served them well with this first feature film, delivering a movie that looks and sounds like most indie-film-makers can only dream of. Despite the flaws in the script, it’s still a very watchable, if low-key sci-fi movie, that builds expertly to its conclusion. With the right producer and some actual cash behind their next project, I think these brothers could do great things for the UK film industry.
Someone give them a proper budget and wait to be amazed.