“Sky Peals feels like a product of its time in that we’ve all had our fair share of descending a bit into madness in order to search for answers, yearning for connection, and trying to get to know ourselves much further.”
Can someone even have a full grasp of their own identity? Is it possible to feel more connected once you detach from something? Will there be answers to all our questions or are we just throwing it out to the universe? Moin Hussain’s Sky Peals, part of the Venice International Critics’ Week selection, probes the existential questions of life in this haunting and impressive feature-length debut for the director.
The film is viewed through the eyes of Adam, a shy and quiet protagonist working the night shift as burger store crew in Sky Peals Services, a service station. His life is routine and pretty much isolated. He lives with his mother, but she plans to move in with her new lover and sell their family house, which would leave her son homeless. Adam is estranged from his father, who he hasn’t heard from or seen in a long time. So, receiving a voicemail from dad out of nowhere surprises him, only to be surprised again a few days later after learning from his uncle that his father has already passed away.
This news becomes the catalyst for Adam’s search for answers. But this isn’t your typical thriller. Adam isn’t looking for some sort of killer. The film is more interested in asking questions than giving answers. When Adam learns that his late father believed that he was an alien, this coincides with our main character becoming more sensitive to his surroundings. Curious if there’s any semblance of truth or direction to his theory, Adam starts to become more observant – reviewing footage of his father from before he died, experiencing blackouts, hearing noises. All these events are effectively conveyed on screen through a fantastic all-around production.
Hussain shows great potential in his directorial debut with a commendable and particular sense of detail. He talks a lot about spaces – the ones we’re occupying, the ones we’re ignoring, the ones we’re vacating – and it shows. The film’s production design conveys so much in introducing the nightly patterned schedule of Adam, with its use of wide, empty, dark spaces – likely an allusion to the main character’s state. The mood is further highlighted by the film’s use of music, providing an atmospheric effect. Sky Peals‘ one-two punch of visual and aural achievement certainly makes the whole movie-watching experience more alive.
What makes the film even more interesting is that it isn’t just a mood-setting experience. Everything involving Tara, Adam’s perky colleague, feels refreshing to watch as a stark contrast to Adam, and their characters complement one another. It does not feel disjointed or like an addition for comedic purposes; instead it helps emphasize Adam’s persona. Faraz Ayub captures the confusion and loneliness of Adam with each stare and it’s impressive how much emotion he can convey even without uttering a single word.
Coming out of a world pandemic in which isolation was the norm and social distancing was practiced and promoted a lot, Sky Peals feels like a product of its time in that we’ve all had our fair share of descending a bit into madness in order to search for answers, yearning for connection, and trying to get to know ourselves much further.