Casey Affleck dons his director's and writer's caps with Light of My Life, a new film that borrows heavily from The Road … and Maggie … and Children of Men … and even 2013 video game The Last of Us.
Affleck is known only as Dad, a man trying to survive during the aftermath of a virus that killed almost all the women on earth except for his daughter, whom he affectionately calls Rags (Anna Pniowsky of Pen15), and who is one of the last females on Earth. Together, they're headed … someplace for survival reasons, but there are bad guys everywhere who want to kidnap Rags for … other reasons, and there's only so long she can be passed off as a young boy; there's a lot of camping and prepping and running away from nameless evil during the pilgrimage to … some place.
Setting aside the tired premise of Light of My Life, there are moments of legitimate artistry and excitement. Affleck and Pniowsky do have an unmistakable chemistry, particularly during an early-film storytelling scene that near-perfectly encapsulates the parent/child dynamic and proves Affleck can really act from time to time. Elsewhere, tense fight scenes are challenging and ugly, but lop-sidedly exhilarating when they're presented against the backdrop of long walks.
You'll also find needlessness and no small amount of self-indulgence, from Elisabeth Moss' two or three barely-there and emotionally manipulative scenes to the many, many times we observe Dad slowly preparing for the worst or proving to Rags he's a cool, progressive father who will happily answer her annoying youthful questions even as the omnipresent danger lurks nearby. Later, however, we start to wonder if there's some kind of religious motive as late-film characters philosophize on God's plan. These scenes are, thankfully, short-lived before it's back to the hopelessness, but, sadly, no amount of pretty wintertime panoramic establishing shots can curb the tedium.
In the end, there is no particular message or moral, but perhaps Affleck is trying to tell us something about doing our best. He surely did in making in the movie, and while it sure looks nice in quieter moments, it's not so easy to care.
+Cinematography; decent turns from Affleck and Pniowsky
-Long-winded and tedious; tired material
Light of My Life
Directed by Affleck
With Affleck and Pniowsky
Center for Contemporary Arts, R, 119 min.