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Ghostlight is a drama about hurt people that cure themselves with art. It’s sloppy, like life can be. I don’t know how else to describe this movie but as one that feels both longer and shorter than it should be at the same time. But, in American independent cinema today what it’s doing has a purity and earnestness that is increasingly rare.

Co-Directed by Kerry O’Sullivan from Chicago and Alex Thompson (O’Sullivan also wrote the script), this story is about an actual family of working actors. The father, Dan (Keith Kupferer) works for a construction company. He lives in a residential neighborhood and his wife Sharon (Tara Mallen), their teenage daughter Daisy (Katherine Mallen Kupferer). There are problems within this household; you see them well before they are disclosed in the film for your consideration and study.

There was something else I noticed about Ghostlight that might bother some viewers: You won’t really understand what’s wrong with this family until deep into the movie (I’m not going to tell you it but think of an unspeakable loss). For quite some time now, you will have been wondering why they are behaving like they do. Dan is withdrawn at work and sort of spaced out. His explosive anger sometimes brings forth serious issues from his mental haze suddenly without warning signals being activated inside him. Daisy too flares up once in a while and has been disciplined after she burst into angry words at her school. She uses curse-words where no one speaks such language yet she doesn’t seem to mind breaking taboos. Although hanging on by a thread, Sharon seems to be very dutiful mother who cares for her husband as well but then many little things about them come out over time; hearing them more deeply only makes these matters heavier on yourself as well.

In the preceding play, Dolly De Leon, who makes a strong impression in “Triangle of Sadness,” plays Rita, an actress from that local group who gets to know Dan because his team is making noise during their construction work near the theater and this marks her point of entry into a rather shabby community theatre production of “Romeo and Juliet” which she would never have had access to. She is however above 50 years old but has been casted as Juliet so Dan comes in as the person replacing such a much younger actor who claims that it’s really awkward.

This is unfortunately one of the weakest parts of the film. The guy sure felt embarrassed when he joined people in acting (as he is macho with minimal talk). Yet on another hand for him, Ghostlight it was a romantic role which involved kissing (a memorable bit where Hanna Dworkin apologizes for not having money to pay an intimacy coordinator and tries to give them lessons on how they are supposed to treat each other while onstage). It isn’t so much about his secret life being kept secret by Dan himself than how it is exposed; something that could be a great sitcom ‘big laugh’ moment although it doesn’t quite make sense if you think about what happens next in this room or whether these few misplaced words could come from anyone else but its creator. In some scenes, especially those that include little Daisy and were acted by the young Kupferer as someone once described her, answering the question: “What if Joan Cusack had a baby with Nicolas Cage?”, which means she often acts too largely even though she is playing small.

But those are also some of the things that make this movie nice. Daisy takes on everything around her like she was sent there by nature itself. Eventually, you get used to her,Ghostlight but then you begin to realize why she never comes at scenes or moments exactly as one might expect her to (or Julia, the actress playing her). Even where she silently watched another person or waited for her turn to speak or just hung about in a larger moment, she was too intense for anyone not to look at her because you knew that behind those eyes were five or six different things.

The apple must not have fallen far from the tree(s): in Mom and Dad, both elder Kupferer and Mallen unpack previously hidden layers and avoid obvious reactions and readings. Towards the end of the film, Mallen delivers a powerful scene where Sharon berates her spouse for playing hero while she does what she calls “grunt work” for their family: though it may leave some viewers uncomfortable, it is undeniably realistic. Sad Daddy Kupferer on the other hand plays sadness in a refreshing way. The reasons why none of Dan’s acquaintances understand fully his agony or would recognize signs of someone who is always on the brink of collapsing or blowing up are well described.

Twenty to thirty years ago there were quite few English and Australian comedy-dramas about art as a liberating force for people who didn’t think they were creative such as “The Full Monty” and “Brassed Off.” Recently Patrick Wang has produced amazing films like “A Bread Factory Part 1” and “A Bread Factory Part 2.” In this sense “Ghostlight” is an honorable attempt at such kind of movies. Instead of explaining everything to us through dialogue or monologues, meaning are delivered through emotions by actors themselves making them live their characters instead weighing down all with exposition or having speeches which put profundity into bumper stickers or memes.

All those vibrant possibilities that its story line opens haven’t been capitalized by “Ghostlight.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the filmmakers’ draft folders contained three-or four-hour cut versions. Nearly every one of them could have been done; however, I do not think less of it because it did not complete all its tasks that were set. Sounds as though they never really planned this thing but felt their way through it in order to find phraseology that satisfied them. It starts off slow but picks up momentum over time until you’re hit with the last thirty minutes which can’t all be traced down to the same meaning or the idea of it. All you have to do is just accept that it is what it is becoming as well as decide to embrace and feel like its feelings are yours too.

Some of the things that might seem odd at first turn out to be some of the movie’s strengths in terms of drama such as casting two middle-aged people (which makes older viewers think about how their mind don’t keep pace with their body) or even Romeo and Juliet being chosen among other Shakespearean plays as circumstances in which grief would find place among this family so that they can deal with it.

This ended up being a perfect play for both the film and its characters. One of the most enigmatic and magical aspects of art is that with right actors, and in right conditions, one may get absorbed into something whose setting has no connection at all with anything in his/her own life until he/she suddenly realizes: “Oh my God—that’s me up there.”

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