Actor Casey Affleck (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA) hasn’t had an easy time in some quarters of Hollywood since he was #MeToo’d prior to his Oscar® win in early 2017. That’s not to say that he should be let off the hook (both lawsuits against him were settled out of court), but his films since then haven’t received the publicity and success that they may have deserved in different circumstances. With his latest film, Affleck pulls quadruple duty as writer, director, producer and star. Though he does a respectable job, LIGHT OF MY LIFE has been pretty much a box office dud.
The film opens with an unkempt man known only as “Dad” (Affleck) camping with his pre-teen daughter, named “Rag” (Anna Pniowsky). It’s a warm scene as Dad tells Rag a rather protracted version of “Noah and the Ark” complete with a put-on Australian accent (perhaps as a dig at Russell Crowe’s cinematic turn as Noah from a few years back), but we quickly start to sense that camping is something that Dad and Rag have done quite a bit together. That feeling is confirmed the next morning when the pair packs up their tent and belongings and sets off deeper into what looks like a Pacific Northwest forest. Through flashback, we learn that the man’s wife and Rag’s mom (Elisabeth Moss, THE INVISIBLE MAN; US; QUEEN OF EARTH; LISTEN UP PHILIP; TV’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE; TV’s MAD MEN) had died of a virus when Rag was just a baby. That virus, it turns out, ultimately killed off almost all womankind and Rag wonders if she’s the last female human left on the planet. Winter is coming, though, and Dad and Rag need to find shelter. With men roaming around looking for the few surviving women to keep as sex slaves, Dad has to balance keeping Rag safe with keeping them both alive.
LIGHT OF MY LIFE is reminiscent of Debra Granik’s film, LEAVE NO TRACE, from 2018 and John Hillcoat’s THE ROAD from 2009, although Dad and Rag’s reasons for living off the grid are quite different from the other pairs. Even so, all these films feature mature performances from young actors who belie their ages. While LIGHT OF MY LIFE is a particularly timely tale, it unfortunately suffers from pacing problems and some scenes could benefit from a generous snip from the editor’s scissors.
The film premiered at last year’s Berlinale and has been slowly making its way around the world since its commercial release last August. It opened in Hong Kong today and is also available on the streaming services for those who are still waiting for the world to be right again. If you can handle a film that burns slower than a frozen candle, check LIGHT OF MY LIFE out. You will be rewarded with a thought-provoking film that quietly builds to a devastating conclusion.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, July 10th, 8:30 am HK time!
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