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AFI Fest: Light of Mine Movie Review


AFI Fest: Light of Mine Movie Review

Title: Light of Mine

Director: Brett Eichenberger

Starring: Ji Tanzer, Rebecca Sanborn

An in-competition entry in the recent and ongoing AFI Fest’s “Breakthrough” section, which spotlights movies located solely through the festival’s cold submission process, director Brett Eichenberger’s “Light of Mine” is a reflective, strikingly photographed little relationship drama about a man grappling with impending blindness, and the notion of how to forge a path for a future he won’t be able to see.

After being diagnosed with hereditary optic neuropathy, photographer Owen (Ji Tanzer) is despondent. Already suffering from vision loss in one eye, he’s told to expect fairly rapid deterioration in his remaining eye. His wife, Laura (Rebecca Sanborn), aims to be as supportive as possible, but doesn’t know how to coax Owen out of his low-grade depression. She suggests a trip to Yellowstone National Park, but at first he rebuffs her. Eventually, though, he accedes, and the pair — already existing by a financial string — sling together a hastily planned trip, stopping off to visit friends along the way.

It’s true that this story is thin — a bouillabaisse of road movie, disease-of-the-week and romantic reconciliation cliches. But that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be meted out with a bit more skill and tradecraft. Screenwriter Jill Remensnyder, however, never quite seizes upon some deeper nuggets or truths about the personalities of her characters, and so “Light of Mine”‘s leads feel a bit like ciphers. Also, its dramatic conflict over Laura’s desire to have a child feels strangely underexploited, given the natural parallels of life closure and rebirth that it offers. There’s mesmeric, underplayed intimation and then there’s the absence of dramatic engagement, and “Light of Mine” not infrequently feels like the latter.

By and large, though, “Light of Mine” still works as a mood piece. The film’s technical package is superb for such a low-budget effort. Location filming in Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana provides for plenty of beautiful backdrops, and while it’s true that Eichenberger and cinematographers Patrick Neary and Michael Ferry favor sunset and magic hour compositions that generally tug at the heart in a manner more expressionistic than effectively, chronologically ordered, there’s no denying the movie’s impact on this front. Modern life has sealed off so many of us from nature. “Light of Mine,” in its richly captured vistas and interaction with nature, reminds a viewer of that elemental connection to our physical environment, and what it might mean to lose at least one important sensory perception of that.

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Technical: A-

Acting: C+

Story: C

Overall: C+

Written by: Brent Simon

Light of Mine

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A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Brent Simon is a three-term president of LAFCA, a contributor to Screen International and Magill's Cinema Annual, and film editor of H Magazine. He cannot abide a world without U2 and pizza.

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