My first feature of the 2021 Nightstream Film Festival was Jefferson Moneo’s Cosmic Dawn. It’s an interesting film that chases answers, only to come up with more questions. Along the way, it has crazy cults, UFO abductions, alien telepathy and visitors from beyond. Or does it?
When she was a child, Aurora’s (Camille Rowe) mother disappeared during a camping trip, leaving her daughter looking for answers. These answers finally arrive when Aurora has reached adulthood. Her memories of the night her mother vanished have become blurry, as time, life and the opinions of family and medical professionals have tried to poke holes in them, yet they remain. She knows that her mother didn’t simply leave or die somewhere in the wilderness. She remembers very specifically that her mother had some sort of encounter with an alien life form, and was taken away.
Now in her twenties, Aurora is haunted by this memory. Having undergone extensive therapy, she still can’t leave the idea behind. One day, she meets some people who might be the key to unlocking everything. It’s a small group of believers, each of whom have had a specific encounter, and have borne witness to the same phenomenon that Aurora remembers from her childhood. Not only has she found people who will accept and believe her story, but she may be on the path to getting answers for the first time in her life.
As she spends more time at the group’s remote bunker, she gets pulled deeper and deeper into their world. The leader, Elise (Antonia Zegers) believes that this group has been chosen as “witnesses” and that the beings that once visited each of them would one day return to take them to the stars.
Aurora finds herself in an interesting situation. On the one hand, a bunch of people hiding in the woods, singing songs and wearing colorful jumpsuits can easily be qualified as some sort of whackadoo cult. But on the other hand, they offer her a glimmer of hope. Elise knows things about her and about her mother that shouldn’t be possible. Could it be possible that the answers that she has been looking for are now right in front of her?
It’s this dichotomy that makes Cosmic Dawn so interesting. Moneo peppers the story with a constant stream of hope and doubt. We fully understand why Aurora would be so drawn to these people, and yet, we see the warning signs along the path she walks. And then we are given a small bite of something that leads us to believe it all could be true.
If the film has a flaw, it’s the speed at which it rushes to get to its conclusion. It reaches a fascinating ending that it feels that it may not have fully earned, given where we came from and how we got there. I think if it had slowed its place a touch and given some of the plot building moments a few more minutes to sink in, it could have landed a little more effectively.
But all in all, it’s an interesting story that balances the desire for closure with the risk of chasing a question into oblivion. In the end, is it all worth it? Or is there a sliver of a chance that the answers are still waiting to be found?
Movie Score: 3/5