Comet is the kind of film that has the ability to make or break relationships. In some ways it’s because it is about relationships but in others it is that Comet is one of those Marmite movies, there really is no middle ground; you’re either going to buy in to it or sit there with a frown on your face wondering why you should care.
Because the double-hitter, and there really are only two of note, are never the most likable of characters. They spend most of the film bickering or analysing the merits, or lack thereof, of love and time and for much of the duration you are left suspecting they might be better off apart than they are together. But, thanks in no small part to a well honed script and two genuinely endearing performances, Comet graces the sky, if only fleetingly, to at least capture the imagination.
In a parallel universe, which is really not particularly relevant to the story, we watch Dell (Justin Long) and Kimberly (Emmy Rossum) through five key stages, and indeed scenes, in their relationship; their meeting, in a cemetery, in a hotel room in Paris, bumping into each other on a train, on a phone conversation across the continent, and when Dell finally goes to meet Kimberly after they have broken up. These five events are all inter-cut giving us a montage of how and why these two people are both drawn to and repelled by each other.
Remember (500) Days Of Summer? You know, the one where Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were wonderfully cute before eventually their relationship went south for winter? Comet is the more existential version of that same premise. A film that takes the ideas of love, time, circumstance and place and mixes them all into a blender to have you spinning. At times it, like the characters on display, is frustrating, refusing to be anything more than essentially a film made-up of two people talking in various environments. It’s hard not to watch it and feel like it would work better as a stage production, the characters leaping from set to set in order to highlight the jumps in the time frame.
And yet, there is something magnetic about Comet. It has a gravity of its own. Writer director Sam Esmail displays a dream-like quality to the scenes, something that neatly plays into a comment made early on in the narrative which makes you question whether everything you see is real or just a powerful vision of what could, should and perhaps has been. It is an evocative piece that nestles neatly into a sub-genre of dry romantic drama.
Long is wonderfully arrogant as Dell, a man too smart for his own good but watching him melt, in spite of himself, into Kimberly is warming. Rossum meanwhile displays acting chops we haven’t seen on her before. With each scene her Kimberly seems to have thawed and hardened a little before a dénouement that will create a small fraction in your heart.
A divisive but often powerful essay on the concept of love this comet doesn’t rip through the sky but glides across it shedding light before vanishing into darkness.