Monday, September 30, 2019

Movie Review: "Light from Light" (2019)

Director: Paul Harrill
Year: 2019
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

A paranormal investigator examines a house for signs of whether or not a man's dead wife is attempting to communicate with him from beyond the grave. 

Marin Ireland and Jim Gaffigan listen for a sign that his dead wife might be a ghost in his house in a movie still for the Sundance film Light from Light (2019)
"It just feels like she's still here." (Image Source)
There are a couple of types of haunted houses in the world. There are the haunted houses you might find at carnivals or places like Disneyland that are full of fake-but-stimulating ghosts meant to entertain all who enter. Then, there are so-called "real-life haunted houses," like the Whaley House in San Diego, CA. These are basically museums, quiet types of sites that aren't necessarily exciting or entertaining, places where nothing will happen unless you imagine it. Movies like "The Conjuring" or "Poltergeist" embody the first description, but writer/director Paul Harrill's film "Light from Light" represents the second one. Sheila (Marin Ireland) is a part-time paranormal investigator who has had a couple clairvoyant experiences in her lifetime. After she gives a radio interview about her abilities, Sheila is contacted by a priest who asks her to help Richard (Jim Gaffigan), a widower who believes he is being haunted by his deceased wife. She agrees to investigate Richard's home to see if the paranormal phenomena he's experiencing are real. As they get to know one another, Sheila also helps Richard navigate his feelings of loss. Sheila also attempts to aid her son Owen (Josh Wiggins) with his budding relationship with a girl from school (Atheena Frizzell). 
Movie scene from the 2019 drama film Light from Light where Marin Ireland and Josh Wiggins sit at a table and talk together about her job as a paranormal investigator
"What's the point of getting together if you already know how it's going to end?" (Image Source)
"Light from Light" is like a much simpler, much less atmospheric version of Oliver Assayas's 2016 film "Personal Shopper." It's a personal tale about loss and grief and love and relationships hidden under the guise of a ghost story that's set against a well-shot scenic backdrop. Sheila has clairvoyant powers and must attempt communication with Richard's wife to give him closure. This is similar to how Kristen Stewart's character grappled with the loss of her brother in Assayas's drama, only with a lot less on-screen texting and fancy clothing. We're sad to say it, but what these films also have in common is a remarkably slow pace that could put viewers to sleep if they aren't careful. It's only 89 minutes in length, but it feels much longer. To put it simply, we both agree "Light from Light" is pretty dull. We wish we could say differently because it had the potential to be something extraordinary. Unfortunately, the majority of the characters are rather uninteresting people who talk about meaningless stuff as if it were meaningful. Each person is jaded in one way or another about love and life and has to navigate their own hangups about relationships, and this is typically done in the most simplistic terms possible. The script could have asked some serious, hard-hitting questions about death and love and the soul and what the afterlife really means, but it's often too ambiguous for its own good. The main recurring question it wants to address is, "what's the point of having relationships if, in the long run, they will inevitably end?" That's like asking, "what's the point of living since I'm eventually going to die?" We have friends, family, cherished people in our lives because loving them makes us happy and satisfies an immediate need, even if that pleasure is fleeting. It's not a terribly difficult question to answer, but Paul Harrill wants us to believe it is. Problems with the script aside, Marin Ireland and Jim Gaffigan give solid performances. We just wish they had more to work with here.
Light from Light 2019 movie still featuring Jim Gaffigan and Marin Ireland discussing ghosts and the paranormal
"People think ghosts are scary. I think it'd be wonderful if they were real." (Image Source)
While "Light from Light" is well-acted and proficiently shot, nothing about this film makes it memorable. It will likely only appeal to a niche audience of festival-goers.

**"Light from Light" has been selected to screen as part of the 2019 San Diego International Film Festival. It will be playing on October 19th, 2019 at 4:30 pm at the Theater Box cinema in downtown San Diego. To buy tickets, click here!**

My Rating: 4.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 3.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 5.6/10
RT Rating: 88%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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