The Afterlight: A Poor Imitation of Terrence Malick

Much as aspiring fiction writers should be prevented from reading Raymond Carver, young filmmakers should be strongly cautioned against putting their love for Terrence Malick into practice. Co-directors Craig Macneill and Alexei Kaleina put the overgrown upstate New York landscape to good use in The Afterlight—a la Malick: Tall grass gently waves in the wind, while crickets and cicadas sing in unison—but clunky writing and wooden acting betray the superficial soulfulness. Andrew and Claire (Michael Kelly and Jicky Schnee) rent an old schoolhouse in a depopulated rural town in hopes of repairing their fractured relationship, but the remote locale only exacerbates their individual feelings of disconnection and isolation. Separately, they wander into the fields to encounter locals—a precocious young girl and a morose blind woman—living their own lives of quiet desperation. From caged birds and labyrinths to solar eclipses and sightlessness, no blunt metaphors for emotional entrapment are left unused, while nonstop dialogic and visual ellipses foster disinterest rather than intrigue. Rip Torn appears briefly and far too belatedly as Claire’s in-law and confidante, at last demonstrating how even unfortunate writing can be salvaged by a natural scene-maker allergic to amateurish portent.