The Vanishing of Sidney Hall

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The Vanishing of Sidney Hall
The Vanishing of Sidney Hall.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Shawn Christensen
Produced by Jonathan Schwartz
Written by
  • Shawn Christensen
  • Jason Dolan
Music by Darren Morze
Cinematography Daniel Katz
Edited by Sabine Hoffman
  • Super Crispy Entertainment
  • Fuzzy Logic Pictures
Distributed by A24
DirecTV Cinema
Release date
Running time
117 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Vanishing of Sidney Hall (originally titled Sidney Hall) is a 2017 American mystery drama film directed and co-written by Shawn Christensen. The film stars Logan Lerman, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan, Nathan Lane and Kyle Chandler.

Principal photography of The Vanishing of Sidney Hall began in late April 2016.[1] The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2017.[2] The film was released on January 25, 2018, through DirecTV Cinema before a limited release on March 2, 2018, by A24. It was negatively received by critics for its screenplay and tone, though praised for its cinematography and acting performances.[3][4]


The film centers around Sidney Hall (Logan Lerman), a young novelist whose life is depicted in a non-linear narrative, through elliptical flashbacks and flash-forwards through three periods of his life.

At the age of eighteen, Sidney reads a story about masturbating in the sixth grade to his English class, to the chagrin of his teacher. He is spared from expulsion by a fellow English teacher, Duane Jones (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), who encourages him with his writing. Sidney is subsequently approached by a bully, Brett Newport (Blake Jenner), who requests assistance with digging up a package they buried when they were small children. Sidney declines and returns home to his abusive mother Velouria (Michelle Monaghan), his downtrodden disabled father Gerald (Darren Pettie), as well as a love letter from an unidentified "Melody". Duane encourages Sidney to use unorthodox, loud tactics to draw Melody out, which he attempts, to no avail.

He spots a girl (Elle Fanning) from the Jameson family across the street and correctly deduces that she is Melody, though she is hesitant to directly interact with him. After seeing Brett bully a classmate, Sidney agrees to help him dig up the package, on the condition that he ceases bullying. The pair go and dig the package up, but as they are about to part ways, Brett's father, Judge George Newport (Sean Cullen), violently arrives on the scene and Brett is forced to hand the package off to Sidney. Sidney watches the tape, to discover that it is a recording of Judge Newport having sex with an adolescent girl. Sidney and Brett rendezvous and agree to go to the authorities with the tape.

Melody calls Sidney and arranges an impromptu date to the fair with him, in which she takes her family's car without permission. At the fair, they bond and Melody admires a small wooden statue the carnival worker at the booth, Johan Tidemand (Tim Blake Nelson) carved. Johan gives Sidney the statue for free. Having watched Brett's tape and read Sidney's unflattering personal notebooks, Velouria confronts Sidney and throws them into the fireplace. Sidney informs Brett that the tape is destroyed, prompting Brett to commit suicide. This prompts Sidney to begin writing a controversial novel called "Suburban Tragedy", which Duane admires and sends to the publisher Harold (Nathan Lane), at Porterhouse, who inks a book deal, with Duane as Sidney's agent. Sidney confronts Velouria about him moving away. She attacks Sidney, who hits his head on a mantelpiece. Sidney and Melody subsequently move away together.

At the age of twenty-four, Sidney is a successful, albeit alcoholic, writer with two books- Suburban Tragedy and State of Execution- atop The New York Times Best Seller list and his name in contention for a Pulitzer Prize. He suffers from hallucinations, as his head injury left scarring on the left side of his brain. At a book signing, Sidney meets an obsessed fan called Henry Crowe, who quotes Suburban Tragedy and speaks of knowing what must be done. Shortly after, Crowe commits suicide, casting the book in a bad light, leading to a competitor on the list, Francis Bishop, to win the Pullitzer. With his marriage with Melody failing, Sidney has a discrete, ongoing affair with Harold's daughter, Alexandra (Margaret Qualley). Melody informs Sidney that she is pregnant, though she insists that he is honest if he is having an affair, which he denies. He reveals that he purchased their dream house in New Mexico. While Sidney and Melody are at a restaurant, Alexandra confronts them, revealing the affair. Sidney and Melody make their way to their apartment, and while Melody attempts to leave in the elevator, the power goes out, trapping them. Melody suffers an asthma attack and due to not having her inhaler, she dies in Sidney's arms in the elevator. Sidney leaves his apartment with the keys inside.

At the age of thirty, Sidney has not been seen nor heard from in five years. Downtrodden, he spends his time going from library to library, burning copies of his books. An apparent detective, The Searcher (Kyle Chandler), traces his steps and interviews those who have known him, including librarians, Duane and Johan, who forged identities for him. After making his way to New Mexico and riding on trains with his dog, Sidney is arrested for having an open alcohol container in public. The Searcher bails Sidney out of jail and takes him for breakfast, where The Searcher reveals himself to be Francis Bishop, wishing to write a biography about Sidney. Francis takes Sidney to the house in New Mexico, where Francis reveals that the positive influence from Suburban Tragedy saved his son from committing suicide. The writers part ways. Sidney's health takes a turn for the worse from the seizures and effects from alcoholism, putting him in a terminal state in the hospital. Sidney summons Francis, who he gives all his writings to and reveals the secrets about the inspiration for Suburban Tragedy, as well as Judge Newport's perversion. Sidney goes silent and Francis departs from the hospital room. Sidney sees a vision of Melody and, taking the form of his eighteen year-old self, holds her hand as he passes away.




While touring alongside The Killers in the United States with his band, Stellastarr in 2004, Shawn Christensen wrote a spec script called Sidney Hall with his best friend and roommate Jason Dolan, which he shared in increments with his friend, Paul Wesley.[5] The inspiration for the screenplay was that Christensen and Dolan mused about the differences in life between the ages of eighteen and when they would turn thirty. They initially considered to make the titular character into an influential rock musician, but decided to go with the route of him being an author, when they realized the expectations of creating new music that could realistically be considered groundbreaking.[6] Wesley received the completed draft of the screenplay, which he described in an interview as, "one of the most beautiful things [he] ever read in [his] life".[5] Wesley presented the screenplay to William Morris Endeavor, which signed both Christensen and Dolan.[7] The screenplay for Sidney Hall was first reported to have been acquired through a discretionary fund by Scott Free Productions in 2008.[8] Joe Russo was to direct, Michael Costigan was to be the producer, Ridley Scott and Tony Scott were to be the executive producers and Jim Sturgess was to play the titular character.[9]

After the release of his feature length directorial debut in 2014, Before I Disappear, Christensen looked to Sidney Hall as his next project, which had not seen active development by Fox Searchlight Pictures in five years.[7] A number of film production companies, including Amazon Studios, aggressively pursued rights to the film, but Christensen opted to have the film independently produced and financed.[10]


For casting the titular protagonist that Jim Sturgess was previously attached to portray, Shawn Christensen auditioned a significant number of young male actors, before twenty-four year-old Logan Lerman was cast to play the character for all three stages of his life portrayed.[10] According to Lerman, he was brought onto the project a year prior to the commencement of principal photography and assisted Christensen and producer Jonathan Schwartz with executive producing.[11] On April 13, 2016, Lerman's involvement with the project was revealed, along with Elle Fanning playing opposite of him.[12] On April 21, Michelle Monaghan, Kyle Chandler and Nathan Lane were announced to have joined the principal cast, as well.[10] Variety revealed on April 25 that Blake Jenner, Margaret Qualley and Tim Blake Nelson had joined the cast.[1]


Principal photography of the film began on April 22, 2016 at the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, in Pleasantville, New York.[1] Approximately a third of the film of the film takes place in a suburban setting, inspired by Christensen's hometown of Wappingers Falls, New York. However, due to a tax credit that made production less expensive, the suburban scenes were shot in Rockland County, New York.[13] The cinematographer, Daniel Katz, shot the film with an Arri Alexa Studio and predominantly with natural lighting, as well as different kinds of lights for the three stages of the main character's life.[14] The production team considered utilizing traditional photographic film, but opted for digital cinematography, due to the feasibility of utilizing it for an independent production. According to Logan Lerman, an excess of footage was captured, in order to create more options for the post-production stage.[11] The production featured twelve-hour work days, beginning in April and going into May, shot between New York and New Mexico.[14]


Darren Morze, who composes all of Christensen's films, was hired to do the music for The Vanishing of Sidney Hall.[15] Utilizing a computer in his home's recording studio, Morze began composing the music prior to the principal photography stage, which allowed for the music to be played on set, to help the actors understand the mood of their scenes. Morze and Christensen considered a number of sources of inspiration for the score, including Vangelis and John Carpenter. Due to tonal needs, they decided to pursue a score complementary of Philip Glass's work- even including a single composed by him.[16] Contrary to Christensen's previous works that featured somber soundtracks, Morze looked to give The Vanishing of Sidney Hall a generally more hopeful tone. According to Morze, he committed more time to composing in August 2016 and continued to work alone on the score for the film until just prior to its release in January 2017.[15]


Sidney Hall premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah.[2] The film was first screened on January 25, 2017.[17] In April 2017, A24 and DirecTV Cinema acquired distribution rights to the film.[18] The film, re-titled "The Vanishing of Sidney Hall", was released on January 25, 2018, through DirecTV Cinema before a limited release on March 2, 2018.[19]

Critical reception

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 9% based on 22 reviews, with an average rating of 2.7/10.[20] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 21 out of 100, based on 10 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[21] Writing for, Glenn Kenny gave it no stars and a thumbs down, and called it "worthless woman-hating garbage".[22] Audience scores were significantly more positive, as reflected by weighted user-generated averages of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes[23] and 7.8/10 on Metacritic.[24]


  1. ^ a b c Kroll, Justin (April 25, 2016). "Blake Jenner, Margaret Qualley and Tim Blake Nelson Join 'Sidney Hall' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Debruge, Peter (December 5, 2016). "Sundance Film Festival Unveils 2017 Premieres, Midnight, Spotlight Sections". Variety. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  3. ^ "The only disappearance of note in 'The Vanishing of Sidney Hall' will be your interest". LA Times. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  4. ^ "Review: A Young Writer Implodes in 'Sidney Hall'". NY Times. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Radish, Christina (March 12, 2014). "Paul Wesley Talks BEFORE I DISAPPEAR, His First Experience as a Producer, Directing an Episode of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES, and More SXSW". Collider. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  6. ^ Iwasaki, Scott (January 24, 2017). "Filmmaker started writing 'Sidney Hall' script with his best friend 10 years ago". Park Record. Park City, Utah. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Reynolds, Matthew Wade (December 24, 2014). "How do you convert an Oscar-winning short into a feature?". Creative Screenwriting Magazine. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  8. ^ Kit, Borys (September 10, 2008). "Shawn Christensen sells his "Karma"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  9. ^ Siegel, Tatianna (September 10, 2008). "WB, Lin join Christensen's "Coalition"". Variety. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Kroll, Justin (April 21, 2016). "Logan Lerman and Elle Fanning to Star in Shawn Christensen's 'Sidney Hall' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
  11. ^ a b Chitwood, Adam (July 28, 2016). "Logan Lerman on 'Indignation', His Intense Preparation, and Why Directing Is His Ultimate Goal". Collider. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
  12. ^ Lyons, Josh (April 13, 2016). "{Exclusive} Logan Lerman and Elle Fanning Join Shawn Christensen's Drama "Sidney Hall"". The Tracking Board. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  13. ^ Barry, John W. (January 16, 2017). "Tax credit may spark Hollywood on Hudson". Poughkeepsie Journal. Poughkeepsie, New York. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  14. ^ a b Filmmaker Staff (January 25, 2017). ""Filmmaking Is a Series of Crushing Compromises": DP Daniel Katz on Sidney Hall". Filmmaker. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  15. ^ a b Long, Kelle (February 27, 2017). "How Sidney Hall Composer Created the Film's Score Using Only a Computer". Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  16. ^ Moye, Clarence (January 28, 2017). "Darren Morze Scores the Drama of Sundance's 'Sidney Hall'". Awards Daily. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  17. ^ "Printable Film Guide" (PDF). Sundance Film Festival. Retrieved December 13, 2016.
  18. ^ Donnelly, Matt (April 4, 2017). "A24, DirecTV Acquire Logan Lerman Sundance Mystery 'Sidney Hall' (Exclusive)". TheWrap. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
  19. ^ Romano, Nick (January 10, 2018). "Kyle Chandler uncovers The Vanishing of Sidney Hall in new trailer". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  20. ^ "The Vanishing of Sidney Hall (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  21. ^ "The Vanishing Of Sidney Hall Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  22. ^ Kenny, Glenn. "The Vanishing of Sidney Hall Movie Review (2018) - Roger Ebert".
  23. ^ "The Vanishing of Sidney Hall (2018)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  24. ^ "Read User Reviews and Submit your own for The Vanishing of Sidney Hall". Metacritic. Retrieved March 21, 2018.

External links

  • Official website
  • The Vanishing of Sidney Hall on IMDb
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