Sundance Review: LIGHT FROM LIGHT Is Way Too Light

Like a ghost, you can almost see through this movie.

Paul Harrill’s Light from Light isn’t a bad movie. It’s too ethereal to be especially bad or good. It’s quiet, mopey, humorless and barely even there, but it doesn’t exactly do anything wrong or make any big mistakes.

Marin Ireland plays Shelia, a rental car worker who has some limited experience with prophetic dreams which has led her to a side-hobby as a paranormal investigator of sorts, though she claims she is “between teams” during the film. A priest contacts her to see if she can help a man he knows (Jim Gaffigan) who thinks his deceased wife may be trying to contact him at home. She, her teenage son and his girlfriend get some gear and go check it out.

There really isn’t much more to it than that. This is the kind of film where we watch people do a lot of contemplating. Everyone speaks in a measured voice, usually as little as possible. Information arrives between the lines and with a luxuriating pace. Whether anything supernatural occurs is beside the point because if it did, you’d hardly notice.

It’s a comfortable film, drowsy even with its 82-minute running time. You sort of sink into it, and doing so isn’t exactly unpleasant. The son and his girlfriend have a very minor arc while Ireland and Gaffigan’s characters share a conversation that would be a building block in a normal film but represents an entire act here. The whole thing does lead to a satisfying conclusion but that, like everything else in Light from Light, is still all about understatement.

The performances are excellent, though as you might expect, subdued. Ireland has the hardest job, as the script requires her to get nearly all her feelings across non-verbally while also adhering to the film’s definitive smallness. Gaffigan does as little as possible, but it works to convey the sadness of a good man going through a hard ordeal while not making a big deal out of it. He specifically adds an everyman kindness to the role that elevates it beyond mere stunt casting. 

But there is just so little here. Light from Light merely aspires to be an atmospheric character piece focused on melancholy and brief human connection, and at this it totally succeeds. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but there’s not much one can say about it either.