The Movie Waffler First Look Review - GHOSTLIGHT | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - GHOSTLIGHT

Ghostlight review
A troubled husband and father finds comfort in a local theatre group.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Alex Thompson, Kelly O'Sullivan

Starring: Keith Kupferer, Tara Mallen, Katherine Mallen Kupferer, Dolly De Leon

Ghostlight poster

Acting - being on stage, pretending (and, in a lot of cases, being really good at pretending) to be someone else in a made-up context as everyone who watches wilfully plays along - it's wild, really. Sometimes, sitting in the audience of a show, there's that vertiginous moment when the suspension of disbelief wavers, the dream breaks, and you recognise that you're watching a construction. Objectively you are able to acknowledge this acutely human, shared interaction of actor, audience and the fiction created between both: the rehearsal of recognised emotions, a restaging of our selves. A kind of magic. Ah man, if it wasn't for a crippling shyness I should have been an actor. After all, I'm a born show off, addicted to play, and, the sordid truth of the matter, a person who would utterly revel in the control acting affords, both within the pre-scripted scenario and the abiding influence over an audience.

Ghostlight review

Likewise, in Kelly O'Sullivan and Alex Thompson's (from a screenplay by O'Sullivan) tremendous Ghostlight, the pull of acting for main character Dan (Keith Kupferer) is the "chance at being somebody else for a while." It takes all sorts I know, but Dan is positioned as the diametric opposite of a thespian. A construction worker in a busy city, his life is holding the line on urban highways as cars aggressively race past: the only reprieve is when he is called into his daughter's (Daisy - Keith's real life offspring Katherine Mallen Kupferer) school by wife Sharon (Tara Mallen), as the former has hit a teacher. Later, accidentally wandering into an amateur company working towards Romeo and Juliet, nonplussed Dan finds himself cast as the male lead. Why not? It's an escape, if nothing else. As Puck like producer and female lead Rita (Dolly De Leon) ponders, "Art finds you"...

Ghostlight review

While Dan warms to his role, we see the production develop along with the effects his new-found interests have upon his home life. Aside from the pristine direction and the supreme performances, what impresses most about Ghostlight is how measured the film is, both in terms of its gradual narrative and eventual emotional reveals. It's funny, ostensibly: when asked by her parents why she isn't going to audition for the school musical, foul mouthed Daisy snaps back, "Because it's fucking stupid"; she also knowingly refers to Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet as a "classic.... old but good." But Daisy's vitriol is masking a deeper pain, an incomprehensible heartbreak which is shared by the family and carefully hinted at throughout the film. The early juxtaposition between Dan's budding hobby and Daisy's mysterious lack of interest in a previous passion is characteristic of Ghostlight's use of parallels to create profound and, ultimately, devastating meanings: most intensely in the narrative relevance of the tragedy Dan will soon perform (a quick aside - it is cool how the incongruity of Romeo and Juliet's age and the relative vintage of the people playing them is barely touched upon. Because it shouldn't be - it's called art, not real life. To those thick racists/sudden Shakespeare experts making a disingenuous fuss on social media over the casting in Jamie Lloyd's irl recent production of the same play: it's not for you: fuck off).

Ghostlight review

In another instance of mimesis, this indie joyfully replicates the energy of am-dram productions, not in its uniformly excellent performances, but its dog-eared authenticity and sincere intimacy. There really is nothing like amateur theatre: the bliss of discovery, the community, the pure love of it all. Ghostlight captures this enthusiasm in scenes of joyous rehearsals and cast bonding. I loved how acutely earnest it is, how deeply felt (I wondered what a British take on such material may involve and shuddered, imagining patronising parochialism and a smugness completely absent from Ghostlight). At times the film is so vividly, naturally emotive it feels as if one is spying on the characters through a slightly grimy neighbourhood window. A final analogy: imagine watching this meditation on grief and acceptance if you were undergoing a similar situation. I reckon you would be grateful for the catharsis O'Sullivan and Thompson's film entails... Art finds you, indeed. And I hope that you too find Ghostlight.

Ghostlight is in US cinemas from June 14th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

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