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  Light of My Life The Last Girl On Earth
Year: 2019
Director: Casey Affleck
Stars: Anna Pniowsky, Casey Affleck, Tom Bower, Elisabeth Moss, Hrothgar Mathews, Timothy Webber, Thelonius Serrell-Freed, Jesse James Pierce, Tommy Clarke, Lloyd Cunningham, Kory Grim, Michael Ching, Dee Jay Jackson, Patrick Keating, Sydnee Parker Anderson
Genre: Drama, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: This father (Casey Affleck) is in a tent at night with his eleven-year-old daughter who he nicknames Rag (Anna Pniowsky), and is attempting to tell her a bedtime story. She is getting a little old for such things, and begins to subtly criticise his storytelling, that it's derivative of older tales, that the main character should be the girl not the boy, and so on, but he gets through it and it is time to go to sleep at last. Yet tomorrow will bring fresh challenges, as each day does since the virus that wiped out almost the entire female population of the world, with Rag, as far as she knows, the only girl left alive, unless there are a handful of others like her somewhere. But survival is paramount now...

Seen The Road, the Cormac McCarthy adaptation? If you liked that, how about the same kind of thing only with a girl child instead of a boy? That would appear to be the thinking behind Light of My Life, a pet project of director-writer-producer-star Casey Affleck, who used the leverage brought about by his Oscar win to bring this ten years in gestation project to the screen. No, it was not the most original effort you would ever see, reminiscent of those nineteen-seventies high concept post-apocalypses that dotted the release schedules back then, going further than McCarthy's writings if you were keen to make that comparison, but there was a deep sincerity to delivering the thing.

Whether that sincerity was misguided or not was another matter, as the Oscar had served to highlight not merely that many thought he was a talented actor, but also the problems that arose the previous time he directed a movie, the pseudo-documentary/pretentious and obnoxious art stunt I'm Still Here. There he had been accused of sexual harassment, and that allegation had followed him around ever since, rendering this looking like an act of atonement: he can't be a sexist boor, we were supposed to think, for this story sees his character sticking up for females, being the big daddy bear protector of a girl who was in great peril from those other, nastier males around.

Was this convincing? He denied there was a connection, Affleck certainly seemed to have convinced himself, and this did pick up a cult following of fans willing to forgive (or ignore) what he had gotten up to on the 2010 film, which after all was a while ago and he was contrite when asked about that in the media. Yet the image of Brie Larson standing far back from him in silent judgement as he won his Academy Award was one difficult to shift once seen - you don't want to piss off Brie Larson - and proved more memorable than anything in Light of My Life, which resolved itself into a series of outdoors scenes where Affleck and Pniowsky trudged through muddy forests and later, snow in increasingly miserable fashion. The fact remained that what the unnamed father was trying to protect his daughter from was pretty unspeakable.

So unspeakable that nobody in the film mentions it, except obliquely, but the theme here was protecting women and girls from rape. Rag, we are told through the actions of her father and the occasional men they meet, will be sexually assaulted should anyone find out that she is not the boy she poses as, and worse, as apparently the plague has left just about every male not as noble as the dad here, but as predators sniffing around for a chance to sate their ghastly lust. Whether this scenario would result in this sort of immoral lawlessness is a moot point, though the worry that Affleck had a point offered the drama a power in a manner that you may not want to contemplate too closely, and it did serve as a reason for the duo to keep on moving and not be tied down; when they do make the mistake of making a friend, events came to a head. But not as much as you would think, as this was more a muted snapshot of a nightmare with no real solution, nor even an explanation of why Rag was immune. Many would find it simply too dull, while others dislike its conclusions, but Pniowsky did make an impression as nobody's victim. Music by Daniel Hart.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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