Monday 26 September 2016


Now touring cinemas across the country is director Esther May Campbell's feature film debut, Light Years. When Rose leaves home in search of her absent mother (folk singer Beth Orton), her siblings leave the familiarity of their surroundings to try and track them both down and bring them home.

Expanded from Esther May Campbell's BAFTA winning short, this is a world where the children exist largely without adults. Beth Orton (best known as a folk singer who has occasionally collaborated with the Chemical Brothers) in her second big screen acting role, plays a character who exists as a spectre in the lives of her young children. They all know their mother is ill and that the cause of her issues may come into play in their lives as they get older, and although it would be unfair to categorise her as a bad parent, her illness has left an indelible mark on the lives and growth of her children. It's this fractious relationship that provides the backbone to the film, although the lack of clarity towards the direction of the film can prove frustrating to watch.

Shot by Zac Nicholson and Will Pugh, the film is a visual delight, with the drab greyness of an industrial estate representing adulthood clashing with the surrounding blooming countryside of childhood. There are moments when these two worlds collide for the young characters who have been forced into early adulthood by their parents, such as one scene on a motorway bridge that audibly expresses the thundering journey they are on, and another where teenager Ramona (Sophie Burton) finds young love as a train roars past. Rather than coming across as heavy handed or cod-philosophical, it's these moments of contrast that end up bringing the film to life, albeit fleetingly.

The most intriguing character in the film is a scrappy little kid on a bike called Levi, who appears to exist in a world that's somewhere between Harmony Korine's Gummo and This is England. On the periphery of the story but with a vocal romantic interest in youngest daughter Rose, when he inexplicably disappears from the narrative as the focus shifts onto Orton's character, his presence is sorely missed.

Light Years is a sleepy sunset of a film, and although there is an undeniably beautiful and lyrical quality within its photography, the visuals far surpass the performances and the family puzzle at the heart of the film is one that ultimately you may not care about seeing solved.


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