Eye For Film >> Movies >> First Light (2018) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
The world is full of low-budget indie science fiction films about teenagers with unusual powers. It's understandable - they're an obvious means through which to address feelings of alienation and the experience of bodily change. First Light doesn't do anything particularly unusual, but strong design, a sensitive script and good performances elevate it far above most of its peers.
Alex (Stefanie Scott) and Sean (Théodore Pellerin) have been friends since early childhood. On one of those nights when everything feels a little different, a little magical, they have a close encounter with mysterious lights which apparently save Alex from drowning. Afterwards she's not quite the same. It's hard to pinpoint just what has changed - until metal objects start to behave strangely around her, floating in the air. Sean's beloved gran, whom he and his brother have cared for through two years of severe dementia, suddenly starts behaving normally again. But it's not all good news. When it becomes apparent that shady government types are on the hunt for Alex, the two teenagers go on the run.
Both Scott and Pellerin are impressive in roles that ask them to take seriously a type of experience often trivialised or played for laughs. When Sean becomes aware that being around Alex might be endangering his health, he is faced with particularly difficult choices; his devotion to her captures the kind of certainty, naive yet forceful, that only really exists at that age, yet remains convincing. These are working class kids and their resources are limited, but they find allies on their journey as they encounter others who distrust the system. Minor characters are well written and Jason Stone's confidence as a director - on his sophomore feature - captures the intensity that can exist in the briefest of connections formed in desperate circumstances.
The sound design in the film is magnificent and contributes strongly to the atmosphere, with sound building up in layers around key events, successfully creating a sense of the otherworldly; at other times alternating between disconnection and clarity when we see events from the ailing Sean's perspective. Stone keeps the lighting low key and the focus close, because ultimately this is a film about people, and because alien influences, when we see them, need to have room for a tonal shift.
A beautiful example of small scale filmmaking which, by working well within its limits, manages to achieve much more than one might expect. It has a strong emotional resonance that will appeal to teen viewers who have an appetite for something more thoughtful than most Hollywood offerings.Reviewed on: 17 Apr 2018