Alex Taylor's ingenious alien abduction-themed drama lays bare the modern teen experience
The mystery of a supposed alien abduction combines with the potency of adolescence in Alex Taylor's striking debut, which turns wilful narrative ambiguity and visual experimentation into a sharp-eyed study of the modern teen experience.
Writer-director Taylor has set his film in the military town of Aldershot where everyone seems to be searching for something, particularly the group of cyber punk teen misfits around which the story revolves. When one of their number, the ironically named Lucidia (Alexa Davies), is apparently abducted by aliens in her back garden, her friends react not with concern, but envy. The same can't be said for Lucidia's widower father Gabriel (an excellent Antti Reini), whose search for his daughter catapults him into the hallucinatory underworld inhabited by her peers.
It's this collision of realities which gives Spaceship its dramatic definition. Gabriel is our guide into the strange reality of these young social outliers, who talk of unicorns and aliens, engage in endearing sub/dom relationships and are always looking for a way out. Thematic interplay between these otherworldly notions and the psychological need for escape also lends an emotional depth that tethers the film; Lucidia, for example, is struggling to cope with her mother's suicide, while there's a poignant interaction between Gabriel and Tegan (Lara Peake) that strips away ethereal ambiguity to bare her deeply troubled soul.
Also grounding proceedings is the excellent cast, with standouts including Peake, whose nuanced performance balances defiance and desperation, and newcomer Tallulah Rose Haddon, whose blue-haired Alice pulses with untapped energy. Indeed, one of Spaceship's strengths is in its depiction of these teen girls as headstrong, defined individuals who are learning how to harness their power.
With its stream of conscious narrative and dreamlike visuals from gifted cinematographer Liam Iandoli, Spaceship is light years away from the gritty urban ganglands and high school hierarchy that has come to define the on-screen teen experience. Despite its genre leanings, it's an authentic, celebratory and surprisingly moving exploration of the euphoria, and melancholy, of youth.
Limited release from Fri 19 May.