LIGHT FROM LIGHT
(director/writer: Paul Harrill; cinematographer: Greta Zozula; editor: Courtney Ware; music: Adam Granduciel, Jon Natchez; cast: Marin Ireland (Sheila), Jim Gaffigan (Richard), Josh Wiggins (Owen), Atheena Frizzell (Lucy), David Cale (Father Martin); Runtime: 82; MPAA Rating: R; producers: James M. Johnston, Kelly Williams, Toby Halbrooks, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Headington, Theresa Steele; Grasshopper Film; 2019)
“Plays out as a smart ghost story about a paranormal investigator’s search for a possible afterlife that becomes personal to the investigator and her family.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The heartfelt psychological drama (not really a horror film) by the Tennessee-bred writer-director Paul Harrill (“Something, Anything”) plays out as a smart ghost story about a paranormal investigator’s search for a possible afterlife that becomes personal to the investigator and her family. The wonderfully crafted and acted modest film is unconventional in its treatment of the ghost film genre, as it eschews the usual horror pic jump scare trappings for a chance to reveal the more quiet mysteries of a spiritual life.
The single mom Sheila (Marin Ireland, Broadway stage actress) works at an airport car rental counter but on the side conducts paranormal investigations, something she has an innate gift for that she has never fully embraced. We learn of the gift in the opening scene, where she’s interviewed on radio and recalls a prophetic dream she had at age eight, which led those around her to believe she might have “the gift” of “seeing.”
After the broadcast is aired, Sheila is contacted by a local priest from rural East Tennessee, Father Martin (David Cole), who is concerned about getting help for a recently widowed parishioner named Richard (Jim Gaffigan, stand-up comedian) he’s been counseling. Though his wife died as a passenger in a small plane crash, Richard has felt her physical presence after her death and believes she’s trying to communicate with him. Sheila takes the case without payment (despite needing the money) and though she no longer works with a team of ‘other world’ investigators, she borrows their expensive camera equipment she needs to do the job properly.
Without saying so, but through the solid camera work of Greta Zozula, we get the feeling watching Sheila up close is that she’s as burdened with her personal problems as Richard is over the possibility of contact with the spirit of his dead wife.
Sheila asks her teenage son Owen (Josh Wiggins) to assist in her overnight investigation by staying with her at Richard’s farm house, which causes Owen’s girlfriend Lucy (Atheena Frizzell) to ask to also come along.
The best scenes are the gentlest, such as the one where Sheila takes a hike with the affable Richard into the mountain site of the plane crash and can relate to how depressed he feels.
It remains unclear by the time of the climax whether a paranormal incident took place or not, but in the process this somber minor film fills in the missing story parts with a lyrical take about dealing with loss and loneliness. It also gives us hope the teen couple can move closer together and not fear making a lasting connection after their haunted house experience makes them see things in a different light.
The film favorably premiered at Sundance earlier this year.
REVIEWED ON 10/20/2019