Every ghost story plays upon our fears of the unknowable. However, some without fear, but few with love, delicately think upon the raw silent anguish of those left behind. A ghost story produced by David Lowery and Elisabeth Moss without any hint of horror, director Paul Harrill‘s Light from Light is a quiet moving testament to grief, transition, and love.
The film opens with Shiela (Marin Ireland), a single mother to Owen (Josh Wiggins), who works at a car rental agency during the day and hunts for ghosts at night. After hearing her on a talk-radio show sharing her latent paranormal experiences, a priest named Father Martin (David Cale) approaches her to help a man dealing with the loss of his wife from a plane crash.
The man: Richard (Jim Gaffigan) — still lives in the large home he shared with his wife and experiences instances of lights flickering on-and-off and of his keys moving. He can’t decide whether his grief has run roughshod over his imagination or his deceased wife wants to communicate with him.
Harrill’s simple, yet affecting script finds power in emotional compartmentalization. Each character displays a fear of disappointment: Shiela’s son Owen doesn’t want to date Lucy (Atheena Frizzell), worried their relationship may fail due to two divergent futures. Shiela, closed off from love and expectations through years of letdowns, has instilled her emotional timidity in her son.
Their internalized defense mechanisms come to a head with regards to Richard, who only wants one answer to one question: “Is he alone” — while willingly accepting the implications around either answer. Put simply, every character is in a moment of transition with regards to love: whether to love knowing what’s lost or to never love again.
Among an all-around strong cast, Gaffigan as Richard delivers an incredible performance, as a subtle delay-drip guitar score accompanies him. His posture and the lower portions of his face brilliantly exhibit tension and sadness. Whether ghosts are real or not, isn’t simple (and it might not matter). For Richard, the vulnerability associated with either answer to said question leads to a sincere ending that’s not so much wish fulfillment, but self-fulfilling and beautiful.
A selection of the Chicago Critics Film Festival