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Ghostlight movie review & film summary (2024)

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Ghostlight movie review & film summary (2024)

Some viewers will be irritated by one of the qualities I found most intriguing about “Ghostlight”: you don’t really know what this family’s “deal” is, so to speak, until fairly deep in the film (I won’t say what it is; suffice to say it’s an unimaginable loss). For quite a long time, you can’t figure out why they’re all acting the way they are. Dan is sullen and a bit of a space case at work. He has a hair-trigger temper that suddenly erupts through his personal fog and causes severe problems. Daisy also has a temper and is being disciplined for an outburst at her school. She uses profanity in settings where nobody uses profanity and doesn’t care that a taboo is being violated. Sharon is a dutiful, attentive wife and mom who seems to be hanging on by a thread. In due time, you get little details about what happened to them, and the more you learn, the more you start to feel the weight of it yourself.

Dolly De Leon, a breakout in “Triangle of Sadness,” plays Rita, an actress in the aforementioned local troupe who gets to know Dan because his crew is doing loud construction near the theater and ends up being his entry point into a very low-budget community theater production of “Romeo and Juliet.” Even though Rita is in her 50s, she’s playing Juliet, and when the much younger actor playing Romeo complains that it feels weird, Dan, who stumbled into the group, gets recruited to fill in. 

This is, unfortunately, the source of some of the film’s weakest moments. Dan is embarrassed both by getting involved in theater (he’s a strong-silent macho guy, for the most part) but also because it’s a romantic role that involves kissing (there’s a wonderful bit where the troupe’s director Lanora, played by Hanna Dworkin, apologizes for not being able to afford an intimacy coordinator, then guides the two actors through some basic intimacy exercises for the stage). It’s not so much the fact of Dan keeping his secret life a secret as the way that they expose it, which would’ve been a “big laugh” moment on a sitcom, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about who’s doing the discovering and what’s in the room when the moment happens. There is a sitcom tendency to a few scenes, many of them involving Daisy, who’s played by the younger Kupferer in a way that answers the question, “What if Joan Cusack and Nicolas Cage had a baby?” I.e., there’s an innate bigness to her acting even when she’s small.

But that also turns out to be the wellspring of many of the film’s delights. Daisy is a Force-of-Nature type character, barreling through everyone’s life like a petite tornado. Not only do you get used to her after a while, but you begin to appreciate that she (and the actress inhabiting her) never come at a scene or moment in quite the way you might expect. She’s so intense that even when her character is silently observing another character, waiting for her turn to speak, or just being part of a bigger moment, the eye is naturally drawn to her, because you know she’s thinking of five or six things at once.

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