A Bit Of Light Review

DIRECTED & PRODUCED BY STEPHEN MOYER STARRING & PRODUCED BY ACADEMY-AWARD WINNER ANNA PAQUIN & BAFTA-AWARD NOMINEE RAY WINSTONE SCREENPLAY BY REBECCA CALLARD, based on her Bruntwood Prize-nominated play of the same name. A Bit Of Light is a heartfelt yet wryly comic drama about addiction, responsibility, self-acceptance and the value of kindness.

Okay, stories about addiction really get to me, man.

I say this as something who had lost both of my birth parents to overdoses by the time I turned 38. And yet, the story of each of them and my relationship to them was wildly different. I should talk some more about it than I already havesometime. But the point of it its, I’ve personally seen so many different parts of the spectrum of drug and alcohol abuse and how it can affect others.

So when I saw that A Bit Of Light, the newest advance screener I got to watch, featured a character wrestling not only with alcohol addiction but how it impacts her relationship with her children, my curiosity was more than piqued.

Starring Anna Paquin as Ella, the lead character who has recently lost custody of her two daughters due to alcoholic episodes, A Bit Of Light tells the story of how she is handling recovery and her quest to be a part of their lives yet again. She is living with her father, Alan, and sleeping in her daughters’ former bedroom, though we are never shown if that is out of necessity or because she can’t stand sleeping in a room of her own. Her ex, Joseph, and his new paramour are raising the girls in Ella’s stead, and Ella is just kind of a nightmare for everyone to be around or try to deal with.

Enter Neil, a young teen boy that befriends Ella when she visits the nearby park to where she used to take her girls. Neil senses that Ella needs a friend, and despite her own initial protestations, he interjects himself into her world and becomes her confidante.

Ella’s father and her ex both have reasonable doubts when they find out about Neil as to what his intentions are and what the possible endgame of their friendship its, but the two persevere and continue being there for each other.

TWO UPS AND TWO DOWNS

+Anna Paquin and Luca Hogan have really solid and necessary chemistry as Ella and Neil. Whenever the two of them are on screen together, the movie really picks up. Ella is a dour character most of the movie, except for the moments where she is interacting with her young new friend. In those scenes, Paquin lights up, reminding us of the star she has always been.

The dialogue between them works exceptionally well, too. Neil often comes across as extraordinarily sage, almost like he is Ella’s own Jiminy Cricket. The movie leave you guessing as to just who this young man is. We never see his family, and he seems wise beyond his years. In a movie with no supernatural elements, you can still almost buy that he is something more than human. Even his last moment in the film sees Ella ask him if he will be back as he leaves the scene, and his response is very much less than certain. Mysterious!

All of this works because of how well Paquin and Hogan get on, and how deep the writing between them is.

+The overall story to A Bit Of Light is very grounded and true to life, but the stakes are no less than a mother getting to see her children again. Therefore, it’s incredibly easy to engage with the film and get drawn into its plot. It’s a low budget interpersonal drama, but it still feels important. Will Ella maintain her sobriety? Will she reconnect with her daughters? These are relatable stakes. So many of us have known someone with addiction issues or someone who has lost their connection to their children (even if it’s not a physical connection as it is here).

-The ending is a bit of a letdown after the eighty-plus minutes that preceded it. Ella and Neil end up going to Scarborough together and having a good time in each other’s company… until he reveals he knows she bought a bottle of booze and has it with her. This leads to a brief third act conflict in their relationship where Ella… storms off into the sea and then has an ethereal hallucination that her kids are there. Then Neil saves her from drowning and the two go get tea in a cafe.

We don’t get anything on Neil’s backstory to resolve the mystery of what his life (and/or he himself) actually is. We don’t see Ella with her children at all. After a previous big fight before the trip to Scarborough, Ella and her dad sit in a cafe together, and the music rises up as we do not hear what they talk about. It’s like screenwriter Rebecca Callard did not really know how to end the story, so she just cut it off when she was done with it.

I was left with several questions as the credits rolled, and perhaps that is what Callard intended, but it left me unfulfilled.

-There are some awkward and uncomfortable moments in the film, and if you are the kind of person who does not like being made to shift and fidget in your seat because of what you are seeing, this movie could elicit that response. Nothing is TOO bad or anything like that, but the story is about a forty year old woman befriending a boy about to turn fourteen. Nothing ever gets untoward between them, but the plot still can make you feel a bit squiggy at times.

And Ella can be a downright unpleasant protagonist. She is loud and abrasive and has a past that has created her own problems, but she doesn’t own up to it, not really. She says she knows what she has done, but she is mostly wallowing. It can be hard to stomach, though these are just her narrative character flaws. So I can see why they might be necessary, but it can make it hard for the viewer to get on her side until she starts growing.

OVERALL

A Bit Of Light is a touching story about a connection between two people that really should not exist. The ending is a slight letdown in how it leaves virtually everything unanswered, but the road there is traveled in a thoughtful and sympathetic manner.

3.5 out of 5

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