Saturday 23 November 2013

The Lights (2013)

Director: J Andy Moreno
Stars: Andriy Ivanov, Dietrich Hodge and Zein Moreno
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 submissions.
I was honoured to be asked to serve as a judge for the IFP Phoenix Mystery Box Challenge and I had a blast making my choices and seeing them count. Some of my picks won out while others got outvoted by my peers, who preferred other entries. One that other judges rated consistently higher than me was The Lights, an admittedly intriguing piece by J Andy Moreno, who had made one of my favourite Beat the Clock challenge films this year, Doubting Thomas. However I had many problems with this, which landed third place amongst twenty entries, not least that it doesn't tell a complete story, setting us up but leaving us with a 'to be continued' note at the end. It aimed for feel over detail but I had problems with some of the details, like the cop with a mohawk who acted well but looked wrong. The acting was inconsistent, Andriy Ivanov strong on the street but less so while being interrogated, as he is to begin and end the film. I'm still not sure exactly what the interrogation means either, so it's all ungrounded.

To be fair, there was much that I liked too, especially on the technical side and I'm not surprised that it won for Best Technical Elements. I liked how Det Terry Janks, the lead, and Agent Andrea Carmen, the lady asking the questions, are initially faceless because of a careful lighting choice. I liked the back and forth between the questions and the flashbacks that partly explain why they're being asked. When we get to the point where Janks discovers why the film has this title, during the investigation of a storage locker belonging to a missing mechanical engineer, the effects are solid, rendering the set particularly claustrophobic. I also liked the monologue delivered by Zein Moreno but it doesn't wrap up the story, it just wraps up the episode. This feels far less like a complete film and more like the introductory part to a web series that may well get much more interesting as it progresses. As a jigsaw piece it's intriguing but unfulfilling; as a big picture it may well be something to see.

The Lights can be watched for free at Vimeo.

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