Light of My Life is a stripped-down version of the
film you want it to be. It has an utterly compelling concept, but the execution
is muted and sometimes too real and mundane that the story feels aimless. Fortunately,
the film is rescued by its leading characters and their father-daughter
relationship, but even that will strain watchability.
In Light of my Life, a disease wipes out nearly all
of the female population on Earth making girls and women extremely valuable in
the worst ways presumably. Living through this dystopian nightmare is a Dad
(Casey Affleck) and his pre-teen daughter, Rags (Anna Pniowsky). As they move
their camp through the woods and various abandoned homes, their survival
instincts and willpower are put to the test as attackers pursue them
A world where almost all of the females have died suddenly
is a big story. As such, there are a number of questions that could have been
explored by telling it. What was the societal impact? How did countries cope
with the sudden reduction in workforce? Did men resort to prison-style
arrangements to fulfill sexual urges? While some of these questions are touched
on, the film chooses instead to tell a more intimate tale, for better or worse.
The first 10 minutes of the movie are spent watching Dad tell Rags a modified version of the Noah’s Ark story from the Bible, which gives viewers a taste for what’s to come. Light of My Life takes its time and doesn’t offer much visual variety during scenes. So, conversations can go on for much longer than their storytelling utility warrants. In fact, it sometimes felt like some of the conversations were improvised, which can work in short bursts. In long drawn out exchanges, however, improvisation can feel aimless and drag.
Another challenge with the film is that it’s difficult to
understand Dad’s personality since not much is shared about him before the
pandemic. He’s shown in flashbacks with his late wife (Elisabeth Moss), but
they’re usually just quick snippets that don’t plumb the depths of their
characters or their relationship beyond what’s expected. As such, audiences are
left to fill in the blanks as to how the plague affected Dad and changed him.
Moreover, why does Dad behave as unexpectedly as he does
with Rags? He seems to tolerate her disobedience in the face of dire situations
and even apologizes for disciplining her. Was he a teacher or a child counselor
in his former life which is what gives him such patience with children? Is he
simply an obsequious man? Knowing more about Dad would elevate the last act of
the film even more so when he performs the extraordinary to protect Rags.
Fortunately, Dad and Rags have a good relationship which
makes the film watchable even when it’s at its most prosaic. So, when Dad
putters around their temporary home and his ears perk up, audiences know he’s
picked up on something that only a parent can hear, which is their child’s call
for help. It’s also engrossing to see Rags trying to survive in a way she
wasn’t meant to in a world she shouldn’t have to experience. And yet, she can’t
help but squeal in delight when she finds girl clothes that fit her perfectly –
sequins and all. It’s just a shame that more highlights like this weren’t
sprinkled throughout the long runtime more generously.
Light of My Life is easy to watch but not thoroughly
interesting. The acting is a little shallow, and the camerawork doesn’t help to
convey any inner workings as characters stare off into the distance or
contemplate their situations. There are bursts of deep and genuine humanity,
but between those contoured hills and valleys are long stretches of flat
geography that may be too much for most viewers to bear.