Nick’s Cinema Verdict: Ghostlight (Review)

Nick’s Cinema Verdict: Ghostlight (Review)

“Ghostlight”

R/Comedy/Drama/115 Mins

Directed by: Kelly O’Sullivan & Alex Thompson

Written by: Kelly O’Sullivan

Starring: Keith Kupferer (“Our Father”), Dolly De Leon (“Triangle of Sadness”), Katherine Mallen Kupferer (“Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.”), Tara Mallen (“Dark Matter”) and Hanna Dworkin (“Another Happy Day”)

Synopsis: A construction working family man finds himself involved in a local production of “Romeo and Juliet.” While also dealing with issues within his family and personal life, he uses the theater to process his grief of a recent loss and to reconnect with his daughter.

Review: Finding it hard to write this review…not because I can’t think of the words, I just can’t see the keyboard because of the many tears in my eyes. Prefacing this review by advising you to bring the tissues, cause you’re gonna need them. After winning audiences at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Ghostlight” is now showing in select theaters. This film is a heartwarming, funny, emotional gem of an indie drama/comedy that I was fortunate to see over the weekend.

“Ghostlight” is about an emotionally detached family man who recently has suffered a loss. Dealing with a troubled daughter and concerned spouse, he unexpectedly finds solace within the local theater community. Shepherded in by the no-nonsense, forthright actress Rita, he finds a second family within the group of performers. Rehearsing for a one-night performance of “Romeo and Juliet”, he ends up confronting emotions he previously suppressed that help him grow as an actor and as a human. The biggest thing in this little film is the amount of heart it has coursing through its veins. It’s a film that made me laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time.

What makes the film is the performances by the actors playing actors. The ensemble is full of characters that steal your heart whether they are a major or minor role. Leading this group of misfits is Dan, played by Keith Kupferer. Kupferer’s performance is very grounded and human and at times you forget that he’s an actor playing a regular guy trying to be an actor. It’s a subtle performance that breaks your heart. Dolly De Leon as Rita is also a scene stealer. The minute she enters the picture, she’s brash and profane but as the film progresses you start to see a softer side to her character. I would have liked to have gotten a little more backstory for her character, but from the little bits of dialogue you’re given from her in some scenes, you can sense the hard work and determination of Rita. A character who is still chasing their dream of being a star with not even age, stopping her. De Leon is a star. Another talented performer is newcomer Katherine Mallen Kupferer as Daisy. Starring alongside her on and off screen parents (Tara Mallen as Sharon), Katherine portrays Dan’s troubled daughter. Daisy at first comes off as loud and attention seeking doing all she can to get in trouble. Like Dan, she is sheltering her emotions from everyone and has used her emotional outlet to be expressed through the world of theater. This is the link that reconnects Dan and Daisy and helps them understand each other. The chemistry between the small family is strong and real, helped by the fact that they are related which gives the film more authenticity.

While therapy is mostly envisioned as a talking session in an office, almost any hobby can be therapeutic. What I loved about this film was how it used the theater as a form of self expression that can help heal emotional turmoil by confronting real emotions in a fictitious setting. By using the tragedy of “Romeo and Juliet”, it helps Dan and Daisy deal with a recent tragedy, which I won’t divulge into due to spoilers, and helps them navigate grief and eventually, forgiveness. The film takes its time explaining what tragedy took place but through subtle hints and actions, you start to piece it together which leads to a climax that reveals all. When unveiled, it makes the final scenes all the more impactful, leaving you in a pool of tears as the curtains close.

“Ghostlight” is a moving meditation on grief and a film that is strengthened by its genuine performances and its enormous heart. It’s a smaller film that deserves a big audience, all giving it a standing ovation. Definitely make time to see this hidden gem in a theater.

Score: 8.5/10

“Ghostlight” is in select theaters now.

Link to showtimes: https://www.fandango.com/ghostlight-2024-236528/movie-overview 

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