A talented filmmaker will often find they have no need for huge budgets or splashy special effects, and writer / director Paul Harrill‘s intensely gorgeous feature “Light From Light” demonstrates that even the smallest of stories can have a big emotional impact. This beautifully understated film finds meaning in the human connection through a shared experience of sadness, loneliness, and loss.
Shelia (a terrific Marin Ireland) is a single mom with a teenage son, Owen (Josh Wiggins). She works the night shift at an airport car rental counter, bored and disinterested with her dead-end job. Shelia was a former paranormal investigator before a falling out with her former ghost hunting team. After she is interviewed on the local radio station, a priest contacts her about Richard (Jim Gaffigan), a recent widower who thinks his wife may be haunting his mist-shrouded Tennessee farmhouse. Shelia agrees to take the job and, along with Owen and his friend Lucy (Atheena Frizzell), set up cameras and recording devices in an attempt to make contact with the spirit world.
There’s a considerable empathy to Harrill’s work, an emotionally intense story of compassion and regret that’s conveyed tenfold by the talented actors. Ireland has a restrained subtlety in her performance that’s haunting with its sadness. Gaffigan, most famous for being a funnyman, gives an understated performance that is deeply rooted in sorrow. Owen and Lucy provide a counterbalance to the regrets of Richard and Shelia with the hope of a bright future. It’s this emotional, tender honesty that permeates every frame of the film. The sincerity of the characters and the story about finding meaning in the human connection make a perfect match.
In that way, the film is filled with old-fashioned sensibilities. It tells a small scale story with a beauty of a script, including some truly effective dialogue. When asked if he hopes the flickering lights he sees at night are from his deceased wife attempting to make contact, Richard says that he “thought it would be wonderful if ghosts were real.”
And that’s where the film’s real compassion and sensitivity manifests: in its delicate, touching story. Harrill asks questions of his audience with a refreshing ambiguity, leaving them to provide their own answers. As Shelia hopes to bring Richard closure and find the spiritual peace he is seeking, she quietly confronts her own grief and loneliness.
We all cling to a hope that there’s something more to life after it ends, and there’s sometimes a skeptic vs. believer tug-of-war over what you think you see versus what you want to see. Most claims of the supernatural can be shooed away with reason and rational explanations, but do they always have to be if they can bring those left behind out of their inner darkness and into the light?