Written by: Adam Vaughn | February 9th, 2022
Cosmic Dawn (Jefferson Moneo, 2022) 2 out of 4 stars.
Going into Jefferson Moneo’s Cosmic Dawn, one is immediately enthralled by the expectation of subtle but prominent sci-fi elements. They are woven into the background amidst the very personal journey of the film’s protagonist Aurora (Camille Rowe, The Deep House) as she discovers the secrets behind her mother’s unnatural disappearance when Aurora was a child. Her journey leads to a ritualistic group called the “Cosmic Dawn,” led by the mysterious but nurturing Elyse (Antonia Zegers, Los Perros), who is aided by her apprentice Natalie (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Hospitality) and her longtime companion Dieter (Philip Granger, Woodland). As Aurora discovers more about the Cosmic Dawn and its hidden intentions, she too comes closer to a powerful, supernatural force that may reveal all about her past.
Cosmic Dawn opens, and continues to expose its premise and introduce its characters, in a simplified yet mysterious way, bringing the viewer along with Aurora. Within the first few sequences of the film, Cosmic Dawn establishes beautiful art direction, and the film’s overall psychedelic color schemes are fun and vivid to witness. The Cosmic Dawn’s lair—a remote lodging beneath a set of mysterious, ancient stone relics—has a beautiful aesthetic, and stands as an adequate setting for the majority of the plot (even though much takes place in the woods outside the location).
As Cosmic Dawn progresses, however, certain cinematic tropes start to wear thin in effect and quality. The film’s monotonous pacing leaves the viewer disinterested in specific scenes, and the cinematic score, at first eerie and relentless, becomes more annoying and repetitive, let alone distracting. The overall story concludes in a highly predictable manner, with very little to surprise the viewer, leading to a just-barely adequate (and highly generic) happy ending. In general, director Moneo (Big Muddy) seems to lose momentum halfway through, focused on unmemorable characters and trying too hard to keep the movie mysterious for too long.
While Cosmic Dawn provides, at times, plenty of hypnotic aesthetic, the biggest part missing from the film is the fact that, throughout, those promised sci-fi elements are indeed subtle, and often nonexistent in terms of the film’s writing and imagery. When we finally do get a glimpse of the extraterrestrial beings that loom in the background, they are but cheap, ineffective hints of aliens. While I admire that a major theme of the film is the question of whether Cosmic Dawn is real or a fraud, by the time the story concludes, this mystery is never answered in an effective or satisfying way. Alas, this makes Cosmic Dawn a film that, while interesting, is quickly forgettable.