All along the proscenium

Ghostlight is a delightful surprise of a movie. A dysfunctional family finds togetherness after the paterfamilias gets recruited by an amateur theater group to appear in a slipshod version of Romeo and Juliet.

There’s no reason for Ghostlight to be as good as it is since a cursory glance reveals a no-name cast wrestling with the mechanics of cable family movies.

Ghostlight draws you slowly at first but with an ever increasing momentum into a story about family bonds where you must choose between the rational father and his rebellious daughter in ways you don’t anticipate.

And can we just dismiss the use of the word “ghost” in the title. There’s nothing supernatural about this story, nobody dies, and for the life of me I can’t fathom why a non horror film would use that word. On a side note there is the Henrik Ibsen play titled Ghosts, and it’s about past regrets, and maybe that’s the stage production that the thesps in the movie should’ve been rehearsing instead of Shakespeare with lead players in their middle age.

There are two people who stand to make the biggest impact from Ghoslight; Keith Kupferer who plays the father and Katherine Mallen Kupferer as his borderline identity daughter in the midst of her own crisis.

Kupferer has had small character roles in major movies that’ve been shot in Chicago, and Mallen Kupferer obviously is cut from the same theatrical bolt of cloth as her real life theatrical father.

Kupferer père (Dan) works in a union construction job currently fixing a busy avenue. The opening act makes light of how he and his co-workers are being hassled by asshole drivers who yell at them for doing their job. They are trying to cell phone video the abuse they are receiving to show to management. Dan takes matter into his own hands when one aggressive driver crosses the yellow line in his taunts. Dan gets suspended from his job.

As knee-jerk as Dan’s anger was it’s nothing compared to his daughter Daisy who has been expelled from high school for a “physical altercation with a teacher.” When Daisy has a session with a court ordered therapist she stomps out in a fit of anger. Daisy is an amp of emotion turned up to 11 on a scale that maxes out at 10. And Dan must make some good dough at his job because the psych sessions are $150 an hour, and that doesn’t even include the costly lawyer he hires for a deposition hearing that becomes a side plot but has one of the of the most meaningful scenes in the film.

There’s a mom, she a milquetoast character at best and the troupe of actors are hambones that you’d meet at any community theater. All together they are greater than the sum of their parts. Just when you think you’re eyes are about the well up with tears the film switches to even greater heights of emotion provided by the play within the film. If you’ve ever seen the tragic conclusion of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet you know what I mean.

There’s a narrative dynamic running through Ghostlight that reminded me of Coda. But instead of a daughter who is the saving grace of a family here it’s the father who through his compassion, and it takes some time for him to reach into whatever place his head is at and find said compassion, unites his negatively divided family into a positive new millennium nuclear unit. These are characters I want to be around.

Ghostlight has the filmmaking chops to insure future accolades down the road. Directors Alex Thomspon and Kelly O’Sillivan have created a film that fits solidly in the zeitgeist of current events.

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