Movie review: Ghostlight

Mallen Kupferer

My wife and I saw the movie Ghostlight at the Spectrum Theatre during a Saturday matinee. It’s an excellent film. The New York Times describes the title. “‘Ghostlight’ [is] named for the single bulb often left burning in a theater when all the rest of the lights are shut off, keeping it from total darkness. If that sounds like a metaphor, it is.” This is not to be confused with a 2018 movie with, unfortunately, the same name.

But I’m concerned that the viewer won’t give it a chance, particularly if they are watching it on a streaming service. From the three-and-a-half-star review:  “Some viewers will be irritated by one of the qualities I found most intriguing about ‘Ghostlight’: you don’t really know what this family’s ‘deal’ is, so to speak, until fairly deep in the film.”  This is true.

In other words, it’s an “onion” movie, where you must peel off the layers. The payoff, however, is gripping and moving, and quite worthwhile.

The father, Dan (Keith Kupferer), is a construction worker, impatient and occasionally volcanic. His wife Sharon (Tara Mullen) is stoic, trying to keep the family together. Their daughter Daisy (Katherine Mallen Kupferer) is an intelligent, but belligerent teenager.

Dan meets Rita (Dolly De Leon), an actor in a very much ragtag theatrical troupe, and he’s invited to join in a production of Romeo and Juliet. And theater, much to his amazement, turns out to be what he needs.

Family Affair

The reviews are very positive, 100% with the critics and 97% with the audience. The biggest complaint is that it’s too “on the nose,” but even so, the acting and the direction by Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan made it all work.

Did I mention the family in the movie is an actual family? Here’s an interview with directors Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan, as well as another with the directors and actors. 

The soundtrack’s musical choices are interesting, including three songs from Oklahoma that somehow work. I was curious that the movie had subtitles—the script is in English, after all—but occasionally, in scenes involving outdoor traffic, I appreciated them.

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