There’s a warm fire to Joe Swanberg’s All the Light in the Sky. Co-written by and starring Jane Adams (Happiness, Hung), All the Light follows a few days in the life of a moderately successful actress, Marie (Adams). She may not be an A-list star (she’s OK with this), but she’s doing well enough to live by the beach and surf the ocean every morning before she starts her day.
At 45, she’s living in the moment and not worried about her non-existent love life. While juggling her life and career, she has taken on a new responsibility - showing her visiting niece Faye (Sophia Takal) what it’s like to live in Los Angeles. Faye wants to be an actress and live the good life, just like Marie seems to be doing, but is unaware of the discouragements Hollywood usually has to offer. This is Marie’s one chance to tell her about the slums of Los Angeles while showing her a good time.
There’s also another story illuminating in All the Light in the Sky; it’s perhaps the most important part of the film. Marie regularly meets with a man who’s an expert on the sun and light and listens faithfully to him as he tells her how to measure sunlight. I scribbled down most of the things they discuss during their meetings, and those clues lead me to believe Marie is searching for more concrete meaning in the labyrinth we call life.
I first watched Jane Adams on the big screen when I saw Happiness at the age of 15. Her performance was something else, and I’ve followed her career ever since. She has the natural ability to make her broken characters real, relatable, and, well, natural human beings. Adams isn’t afraid to tackle uncomfortable roles. This is an admirable trait.
All the Light in the Sky also features a small collection of young filmmakers currently shaking things up in independent cinema. Ti West (House of the Devil) costars as a stereotypical over-ambitious independent filmmaker, along with the extremely talented Sophia Takal, who wrote, directed, and starred in the highly praised film Green. Both are as pleasing in front of the camera as they are behind it.
Co-writer/director/do-it-yourself auteur Swanberg is responsible for a lot of mumblecore films. He’s perhaps the king of mumblecore. (He made six films in 2011. Six.). A handful of them were panned and deemed immature, mindless, and too lo-fi. Yes, these opinions are subjective (although it’s arguable some are objective), but like anyone who’s deeply passionate about something, you grow from your past oopsies. Regardless of how you feel about mumblecore or Swanberg’s films, nobody can deny that Swanberg continues to grow as a filmmaker. All the Light in the Sky is proof he’s graduated to a new, mature level of filmmaking and pulls it off remarkably. This is a deeply moving and well-written collaboration about some of the blunders and wonders we face in life.
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