Ex-astronaut Wilbur (Patrick G. Keenan) and his wife Loraine (Christy Johnson) live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. They drink and they smoke and they fight; Wilbur leaves the house just long enough to fetch more alcohol and cigarettes. Sometimes Wilbur records an audio podcast about his unexplained experiences as an astronaut, but really he and Loraine exist devoid of any outside human contact. They’re not entirely alone, however, as small balls of light float in and out of their lives.
Your appreciation of Jesse Knight’s The Orbs may rely on how much domestic discord you can tolerate. Loraine and Wilbur are almost always fighting, except in a sequence near the end of the film when it starts to explain itself. Sure, you get other respites from the dysfunction when Wilbur is recording his podcast, or we see a flashback, but everything else seems to be Loraine drunkenly screaming at Wilbur, and Wilbur fighting back.
It is exhausting to experience. While the film does come together by its final minutes, the most interesting developments don’t occur until that final stretch of time, and everything in the lead-up is an endurance challenge. I can attest, if you’re wondering early on if all that you’re seeing has a point or is going somewhere, that it indeed answers pretty much all the questions you might have and does have a point. Whether it’s worth your time is debatable; I don’t think the ending justifies the obnoxious elements that get you there.
Technically, the film is up and down. There are flashback sequences during the space voyage that work stylistically, and are effects-wise a highlight. Smoke effects, however, often appear hokey or out of place. Likewise the appearance of the orbs; sometimes they fit in, but most often they feel like what they are, layered on top of the image. Still, I applaud the attempts, because otherwise it’s a film of two people in a single location fighting with each other all the time, with little else of interest.
Which is ultimately the bottom line with The Orbs, that it is predominantly a bunch of marital fighting with an interesting thought or narrative idea interspersed here or there. Is the time spent navigating the fights worth it to experience the more intriguing elements? For me, not so much.
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