Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 31, 2019)
A post-apocalyptic drama, Light Of My Life shows us a future society. In this setting, nearly the entire female population of the world got eradicated due to a virus.
A decade later, a man (Casey Affleck) cares for his young daughter Rag (Anna Pniowsky). To protect her from threats, he dresses her like a boy so no one will suspect her true gender.
“Dad” and Rag live on the outskirts of the loose society that remains, but this doesn’t prove enough. Dad needs to find various ways to keep Rag safe in this dire situation.
Light represents Affleck’s second stab at a feature film as filmmaker. He also wrote/directed 2010’s I’m Not Here, but unlike his brother Ben, Casey hasn’t embraced that side of the movie business.
I never saw Here, but based on Light, I think Casey displays talent on the other side of the camera. While not the most dynamic film, it becomes a fairly interesting character study.
When I say “most dynamic”, I mean that Light tends toward the slow and deliberate side of the street. The film opens with a 12-minute scene in which Dad tells a version of the “Noah’s Ark” story to Rag.
Though this sequence threatens to tax the viewer’s patience, it pays off in the end, as it sets up the movie’s primary purpose: the tight relationship between father and daughter. While it lacks much firm plot information, it shows their bond and rapport, so it acts as a good way to establish the pair.
Most of Light focuses on their interactions, with occasional jolts of tension along the way. The vast majority of the film sticks solely with Dad and Rag, as we get sporadic flashbacks to their life with Mom (Elisabeth Moss) as well as occasional encounters with other post-plague men.
Though this does make the movie progress at a slow pace, it works, mainly because those sporadic meetings with other folks jar the viewer. Light sticks so much with the two leads that shifts away from them feel almost violent in nature.
Of course, some turn violent in a literal sense, and those add real menace to the proceedings. Affleck creates a world packed with ever-present dangers and ensures that the viewer remains on-edge as matters proceed.
All of this leads to a surprisingly involving survival tale. Normally I’d find myself impatient with such a slow-moving and nearly plot-free tale, but Affleck creates such strong characters and such an intriguing setting that the film maintains attention.
Two solid lead performances help. Affleck and Pnowsky show terrific chemistry, and they make the characters’ bond believable and impactful.
Affleck doles out flashbacks in just the right measure. We get a subtle sense of Dad’s life with Mom but not one that offers too much exposition or schmaltz.
I probably shouldn’t like Light, but I do. It’s a rare character tale that compensates for an absence of fireworks with deep emotional drama.