The first feature-length film from British writer/director Esther Campbell, Light Years tells the story of a slightly odd family, trying to come to terms with their mother’s illness.
Dad Dee is always disappearing, absorbed in his own grief; oldest child Ramona is in love with a boy she’s never spoken to; middle child Ewan is so obsessed with his health that he photographs his bowel movements. Youngest Rose seems to be the most normal of the bunch and, when no one is willing to take her, she decides to strike out on her own to visit her mum. The children are interesting, each caught up in their respective bubbles, and the young actors are brimming with promise, but their characterisation is rather loose. They are more a collection of traits than people in their own rights, their interactions with one another and speech feels unnatural and is evidentially scripted.
It’s sweet and rather captivating and is accompanied by the requisite chirpy soundtrack but, as with so many indie films this year, there’s just not much substance. There are too many transitional and lingering shots that serve no purpose and eat into the runtime leaving little chance for meaningful character development. There are completely useless characters too, who serve little purpose outside of drifting haplessly into the main characters’ orbits, speaking their words of often unheeded wisdom and disappearing entirely.
Ultimately, the film feels rather aimless, only Rose has clearly defined goals and shows a hint of growth. Much of Ramona’s storyline feels completely pointless and, though her and Ewan’s fear of developing their mother’s illness (Ramona showing the physical traits, Ewan the mental) is rather devastating, there’s just not enough of a connection made to truly move the viewer.
Though occasionally touching, visually pleasing and certainly imaginative, Light Years feels annoyingly like something is missing.
Light Years does not yet have a UK release date. This is part of the First Feature competition in the 59th London Film Festival.