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Ghostlight - Sundance 2024


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By: Isaac P. Ale
January 21, 2024

Dolly de Leon and Keith Kupferer in Ghostlight Ghostlight [2024]

Film

So here I am, at whatever elevation Park City is at, stressing the importance of hydration as I sit on my ass for hours on end watching movies. Its the dehydration that'll get you up here ya know? But of course I like to play with fire, god forbid men have hobbies, and I decided to catch a showing of Ghostlight. From the writing and directing team that made Saint Frances in 2019, Kelly O'Sullivan and Alex Thompson co-directed this new film, with O'Sullivan taking on the writing.

And let me tell you, I cried at least a handful of times and probably needed an IV drip to recover from not only the emotional roller coaster, but the dehydration headache that came rolling in.

Ghostlight follows Dan (Keith Kupferer) a quiet, reserved, father of his daughter Daisy (Katherine Mallen Kupferer) and husband to his wife Sharon (Tara Mallen). While working in construction, its readily apparent that everything is not quite right with Dan. There's something hiding under the surface of a man that looks to be miserable at work, having occasional emotional outbursts, often associated with rage. Meanwhile, his daughter Daisy is acting up in school, possibly facing expulsion for pushing a teacher. Sharon and Dan are clearly not on the same page at home either. But everything changes when Dan joins a community theatre group putting on a production of Romeo and Juliet.

Dan's reticence to join the theatre group is funny to watch unfold at first. Being brought in by Rita (Dolly de Leon) one of the most accomplished actors in the group, Dan finds it difficult to really see himself doing this. Kupferer's body language and authenticity in the role really helps sell the discomfort he's feeling straying so far out of his comfort zone. He's embarrassed yet still going through with it and its in Kupferer's honest performance that Ghostlight finds the emotional footing it needs to propel forward.

Where Ghostlight truly excels is an exquisitely written script that withholds information for the perfect amount of time. We're constantly left guessing as to what's happening with Dan's family, but in between all of the questions are warm, funny, even sad moments that draw your attention. We hear Dan and Sharon discuss a deposition early in the film, but what is this lawsuit that clearly has them so distressed? The writing from O'Sullivan is absolutely marvelous, taking us down a narrow winding road of emotion and suspense. Now I don't mean to make this movie sound like a thriller, what I mean is that the writing is not predictable. Its an intricately put together story that keeps you locked in from start to finish. And remember, this movie is funny. Not just funny, but sidesplitting hilarious. O'Sullivan's ability to layer the dramatic with the humorous is outstanding work and kept me glued to the screen.

Hidden tragedy is revealed via Dan's testimony in this aforementioned deposition and it is nothing short of astonishing. Kupferer's restrained yet emotionally powerful performance delivers one hell of an impact. Its tearjerking, delivered to perfection, and it creates such an emotional landslide in a film where his character hasn't been able to grapple with his emotions the whole time. A self proclaimed old school guy, Dan is impossible to read even by his own family as he's unable to truly reckon and understand how he's feeling. One of his first exercises in the theatre group is one where you say something provocative and read your partner's emotions. Dan is obviously surprised when his partner is able to read him completely, something not even those closest in his life can do. Kupferer's facial expressions are subtle yet powerful, lending an even greater force to his powerhouse performance.

An that's the beauty in Ghostlight. The ability of art to not only mirror life, but for people to find understanding and reconciliation through art. Dan may never be able to properly heal from the trauma he and his family have been through, but an outlet such as acting gives him the opportunity to emote all the while getting closer to his daughter, who is struggling just the same.

In the end, the emotional buildup is too much to bear and tears had been shed multiple times. O'Sullivan's writing, direction in conjunction with Thompson along with Kupferer's absolutely Earth shattering performance provide a sensational ground work for an amazing film. Throw in the ever wonderful Dolly De Leon and a supporting cast of hilarious and darling fellow community theatre actors and you've got yourself one incredible film. Ghostlight is a hilarious, heart warming, yet heart shattering homage to the healing power of art in the most beautiful way.

Don't walk to go see this movie, run.

Froth

Sometimes, going out of your comfort zone is necessary. If you're having a hard time moving forward, then maybe a little lateral move might help get you moving. Of course you could always just, Suss It Out, and see if you like joining your theatre group before going all in. That right there is a tremendous transition, introducing this film's beer the Suss It Out Rye IPA by Level Crossing Brewing Company! Ok maybe its not a great segue but I'm trying over here. Anyway, this beer was a wonderful surprise, much like Ghostlight, where the rye and IPA flavors coexist deliciously. It has a great resin and hop forward flavor, but the rye also provides some malty nuttiness behind the scenes that give it a complex taste. In the end you get a little hoppy bitterness, malty sweet, and a pinch of grapefruit to really round out your whole experience.

Then after sussing it out, you can order another one.

Suss It Out
4.00

IPA

Level Crossing Brewing Company

6.9%

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