And then the realization came to me one night as I am flipping randomly through cable channels….I come to the Movies On Demand station and start looking through the offerings they have and see that several of the new Independent films I had wanted to check out so far this year but never came to any of my local theaters (unless I missed them because they last a whopping WEEK and then are gone) were available to watch in the comfort of my own apartment! So, just because the venue may not be an ACTUAL theater doesn’t change the fact they are newly released films and therefore warrant reviews. That said, I give you “Brightest Star”.
One facet of Independent film is that it can give a first time director of a full length feature a chance to introduce their abilities and ideally garner some recognition to move forward in future projects. This appears to be the case for director Maggie Kiley, who has mostly done some minor acting in films between 1998 and 2013, the biggest roles being in 2007’s “We Own The Night” and 2010’s “All Good Things“. As a director, she had previously only done two shorts in 2009 “Down The Shore” and “Some Boys Don’t Leave“. Now she ventures into feature film territory with “Brightest Star”, and for me, she did so successfully.
Originally titled “Light Years”, the story follows our lead character whom we have to refer to as just “The Boy” (Chris Lowell), because he is the only primary person in the film who ISN’T given a name for whatever reason. His tale begins as he is passed out on the floor of what we find out WAS his apartment shared with his now EX love of his life Charlotte (Rose McIver) who vacated with her stuff and not him. To make things even more awkward, he wakes to also find new tenants moving in on top of him, Ray & Lita (Alex Kaluzhsky & Jessica Szohr). As his consciousness returns, The Boy ultimately overcomes the shock of his now Charlotte-less existence and begins to unfold his recollections about her to Ray and Lita, both of whom are trying to help him let go and get on with his life. But as you would imagine, he just WON’T. Here we start getting to experience the entirety, via flashbacks, of how The Boy met Charlotte and how their love grew after first meeting in their college Astronomy class. It seems like a perfect love and things go that way for a while until it is evident that despite being a college grad, The Boy cannot truly figure out who he wants to be, and initially thinks just NOT getting a real job and waiting at home for Charlotte to arrive after work each day is the way to bliss. He decides he wants to try and win her back, to SHOW her he isn’t just a slacker. While we see this going on in retrospect, back in real time The Boy ends up developing feelings for Lita and, after seeing what a total jerk Ray is during a heated encounter, THEY end up dating, complete with him getting a job in international sales with her father Mr. Markovic (Clark Gregg). Yet, despite his attempts to feel and see that he is finally happy again, the thoughts of Charlotte continue to wage their mental war in him, and The Boy starts making decisions that will hinder his NEW relationship that actually has REAL promise. Dissatisfied with being a “suit” at work, then trying other unchallenging jobs, plus perilously playing with BOTH women with the expected consequences, The Boy starts turning back to is this unexpected interest in Astronomy, and seeks out advice from his former college professor Dr. Lambert (Peter Jacobson) about getting into the field. To add to it, he even ends up taking a janitorial position up in a mountain observatory run by an aged Astronomer, Jessica (Allison Janney) who rather quickly pushes him to realize that he needs to be his OWN person and not what he thinks someone else WANTS him to be. And so the film soon ends with reconciliation and an understanding that The Boy has taken this life advice from Jessica and will apply it. How is actually left to conjecture, but I think that worked here.
It’s a small film, simply done, with simple themes and straight forward writing and pacing. And as I know I mention so often, but again it is so true for this genre of filmmaking, it’s the simplicity of the whole thing that made it interesting, entertaining, and very TRUE. Its portrayal of everything from that first BIG love to how we as people DON’T handle it well if it doesn’t work out, that we stumble along to the next thing, only to trip over ourselves since just when we thought we had moved on from it, we HAVEN’T, to trying to be something we’re not to impress someone else, thinking that attitude will win the day, to making MORE mistakes and choices until we FINALLY have that personal revelation (or swift kick in the rear!) about who we are and how we can get to a place we REALLY want to be. Once we’ve gathered ourselves and reach that state of satisfaction in just being US, life moves on. Lowell, McIver, and Szohr really emote well for this story, and the supporting cast does its job too. For me, the best thing about it was that it just all felt so real and human. A fun movie that I was glad to have seen now and, for whatever part or parts it might be, a story we can all somehow relate to.
As always, this is for YOUR consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!