Director Jorge Michel Grau (We Are What We Are) really saw the potential behind Big Sky. But perhaps the odds were already against him since he chose to shoot a film about a girl whose fear is something that can be hard to get a handle on. The results are uneven, long-winded, and unfortunately not the least bit compelling.
Hazel (Bella Thorne) has an anxiety disorder called agoraphobia–she is deathly afraid of open spaces because she perceives it to be unsafe and dangerous. It isn’t clear in the film how she came to develop this disorder (there are hints that it has to do with her sister Grace’s (Chiara Aurelia) death somehow), but regardless, it’s there and taking over every part of her life. It’s to the point where it’s gotten so bad that Hazel’s mother Dee (Kyra Sedgwick) has signed her in to a clinic that will help her overcome this life-hindering fear. However, on the way there, they’re assailed by two trigger-happy kidnappers (Frank Grillo and Aaron Tveit) who are presumably out for ransom, though the reason behind their kidnap attempt remains mostly unclear. Caught in a life or death situation, Hazel must confront her fears head on if she is to save herself and her mother.
Big Sky suffers from After Earth syndrome. That is, it effectively removes the parent figure from the plot, where they’re forced to sit around waiting for their child to do the saving. Consider Hazel Jaden Smith’s character. With the desert now being the open, unpredictable, and dangerous obstacle that must be overcome. Bella Thorne, whose role here would certainly be considered a step up from her Shake it Up! days, isn’t given a lot to do other than stare fearfully every which way. The film tries to set up a strong mother/daughter relationship, but outside of sending somewhat spiteful words in each other’s direction, the relationship doesn’t give us anything significant to latch onto. Hell, even the brotherly relationship between the kidnappers fares better and has more depth to it than the mother/daughter dynamic, which is disappointing.
And now that the kidnappers’ relationship with each other has been mentioned, their dynamic and back and forth about the execution of their job is more or less included to help fill in the minutes and gaping emptiness of Bella Thorne’s character struggles. As an audience, we may feel bad for her, but at the same time we have nothing to connect us to her. Her relatability factor is very low, and it doesn’t help that we don’t get to know her well enough since she spends most of the movie sans any real interaction.
So it seems that although Big Sky had some very big dreams to be a thrilling survival movie, it falls short of ever accomplishing this. The film even feels long at its modest 90-minute run time. The characters are flat and there isn’t any solid dynamic between any of them. The plot is entirely too underdeveloped and all the characters suffer from its neglect. A hard movie to sit through.
Release Date: August 14, 2015 | Director: Jorge Michel Grau | Screenwriter: Evan M. Wiener | Cast: Bella Thorne, Kyra Sedgwick, Frank Grillo, Aaron Tveit, Chiara Aurelia | Genre: Drama, Thriller | MPAA Rating: Not Rated