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Written and directed in 1988 by Steve De Jarnett, “Miracle Mile” is a criminally forgotten film. It was seen by few on it’s original release (5/19/1988) & a flop at the box office but even if you were one of the chosen few that saw it and didn’t like it I’m willing to bet you remember it! What’s it about you ask? Taking place in Los Angeles (In an area located near the La Brea Tarpits known as “Miracle Mile”), A young man named Harry (Anthony Edwards) has met the love of his life, Julie (Mare Winningham) and they make plans for a date later that evening.
Unfortunately Harry misses the date and after looking for (& failing to find) Julie he finds himself depressed and alone in an all night diner when he answers a mysterious phone call in a phone booth just outside. The caller has dialed the wrong number and blurts out that a nuclear war is about to begin between the U.S. and the Soviet Union! He manages to tell Harry that there’s 70 minutes or so left before the missiles launch before Harry hears a gunshot and the line goes dead. Now he must find Julie and find a way to escape L.A. before all hell breaks loose!
I guess the best way to literally describe this film is as a literal apocalyptic love story. The bulk of it finds Harry frantically looking for Julie and once finding her, looking for a way out of the city but the obstacles he faces are overwhelming. The film is darkly humorous at times but the underlying terror of the situation is never overwhelmed by the humor. Harry & Julie meet a cavalcade of odd characters who are all looking to escape as well but De Jarnatt’s script wasn’t written for those who were looking for a “Feel Good” love story.
The script is manic & fast paced but just gets more and more morose as it spirals towards it’s stunning final scene which I thought at the time was the most depressing scene I’d ever seen in a film. Some of the performances are, to be kind, a bit underwhelming but the two central performances are essayed perfectly by Edwards & Winningham. The color palette of the film is very striking as well, filled with pastel colors straight out of the 80’s.
I suppose the depressing nature of the film didn’t help much at the box office but that shouldn’t have mattered. It was a bold film to make then and it would still be an ass kicker if it was released today. It might not look like much from it’s poster art but believe me when I tell you that you will never forget it once you’ve seen it, whether you liked it or not. A true unsung classic of the 80’s, in my opinion “Miracle Mile” failed only because it succeeds in portraying panic and hopelessness so impressively and convincingly.
And as I mentioned earlier, it’s not a “Feel Good” love story either. Love may indeed conquer all but sometimes that comes with a heavy price tag. See it if you’re interested on a different take on the apocalypse and prepare to question your belief in God at the end. Stay far away if you tend to cry at the movies though! This one will have you blubbering for hours afterwards. Enjoy!!