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Film Review: “Cosmic Dawn” Promises More Than It Delivers

Written by: Adam Vaughn | February 9th, 2022

Film poster: “Cosmic Dawn”

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).

Camille Rowe in COSMIC DAWN ©Cranked Up Films

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.

Antonia Zegers in COSMIC DAWN ©Cranked Up Films

Adam Vaughn is a graduate of the Film & Moving Image program at Stevenson University, with a focus in Cinematography and Production. He also has a minor in Theater and Media Performance. Adam works as a freelance photographer and videographer, focusing his craft on creating compelling photographic and cinematic imagery. Adam is excited to join the Film Festival Today team and explore the world of cinema and visual arts.

2 thoughts on “Film Review: “Cosmic Dawn” Promises More Than It Delivers

  1. On the contrary, the ending satisfies the main question of the existence of Cosmic Dawn, Adam. In doing so, it provides an optimistic resolve and resonance for what we’ve just seen.
    Given the obstacles this tale faces, Moneo has handled this work deftly and honestly to arrive at the ending in this way. I haven’t seen his other work, but Cosmic Dawn leaves his future as an auteur in little doubt.

    1. I have no doubt the COSMIC DAWN leaves a bright future from Moneo. If this truly is his first feature film, it is well done and very well produced, as well as very interesting and insightful concept with good execution. As a large scope and cinematic history, however, COSMIC DAWN falls short on originality and emotional connection. In the history of Hollywood, no one‘s first feature film is flawless, and I don’t expect the same from Moneo. I personally have a responsibility to analyze the film as is, and not involve bias based on the filmmaker’s current status/career.

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