Photo: Grasshopper Film
Before We Vanish by Steven Warner Film

Light From Light | Paul Harrill

November 30, 2019

Light From Light is being billed as a paranormal ghost story, and while that description certainly isn’t untrue, it presents a conception far different from what writer-director Paul Harrill has in store. More than ghosts, the characters here are haunted by grief, questioning if the hardships endured throughout their troubled lives are worth the pain and effort. Marin Ireland stars as Sheila Garvin, a paranormal researcher in between gigs who is contacted by a local priest to aid recent widower Richard (Jim Gaffigan), who is convinced that the ghost of his deceased wife is present in their home. Light from Light‘s premise provides Harrill plenty of opportunities to deliver such requisite scenes as Sheila investigating the house late at night, aided with only a flashlight and calling out for the spirit of the late wife — although in fairness, these scenes are expertly crafted, without relying on any cheap jump scares — but Harrill is more concerned with detailing how this particular investigation is forcing Sheila to confront her own troubled past. Emotionally guarded and wary of any sort of happiness because, as she puts it, “everything ends,” Sheila has passed on her distressing pragmatism to her teenage son, who sees a possible high school romance as nothing more than the promise of future disappointment. But what proves most surprising is how Harrill is able to deftly handle such weighty emotional material, using the genre framework to deepen his themes instead of acting as mere window dressing, while also preventing Light from Light from becoming a depressing and humorless slog. Ireland and Gaffigan — both dependable character actors long overdue for a leading role — deliver quietly affecting performances as two individuals who can barely mask the pain they are so desperately trying to bury, but who are also open to finding meaning in whatever form it may arrive. It is that sense of hopefulness that gives the film’s final moments such an emotional wallop and turns this low-key and somewhat familiar fare into something truly moving.

Published as part of November 2019’s Before We Vanish.