Midnight Special ★½

There is a difference between withholding exposition out of respect for the audience's ability—and willingness—to work to comprehend a story and a fundamental abdication of the burdens of storytelling. The latter is what "Midnight Special" amounts to, as director Jeff Nichols virtually makes a fetish out of the unexplained. It's a strategy that affords him the room to sketch out the contours of a largely implausible story of a Very Special Kid, but he never convincingly fleshes out his framework. The characters operate on obscure motivations and never really win us over to their causes. Alton, the young boy who is the center of all the hubbub, is thoroughly irritatng, the kind of preternaturally precocious kid that movie makers are fond of conjuring up in lieu of rendering truly authentic young characters. There's also an unfortunate over reliance on "magical" sounding music to signal that magical things are happening, when all that's really happening on screen is a disappointing dearth of imagination masquerading as high-brow science fiction. This movie was a waste of time.