Sunday, March 17, 2019

SXSW with Abe: Ms. White Light

I’m excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the second time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Ms. White Light
Directed by Paul Shoulberg
Narrative Feature Competition

Most people don’t want to talk about death. Though it’s the one thing that everyone has in common and will eventually experience, there are superstitious notions that talking about it will hasten its arrival. There are those, including this reviewer’s wife, who make it their mission to get people more comfortable with the idea of talking about death. That work comes in many forms and may occur at various points in the course of a person’s life, whether or not death is perceived as imminent. Broaching that conversation is never easy, and doing so with tact and respect is of the utmost importance.

Lex (Roberta Colindrez) specializes in helping terminally ill patients come to terms with letting go and accepting that they are about to die. Her bedside manner needs work, with her father and business partner Gary (John Ortiz) trying to push her to be more personable. An unexpected connection with a patient named Val (Judith Light) open to all forms of accompaniment as she lies sick in a hospital bed opens Lex up to new ideas, including Spencer (Zachary Spicer), a psychic, and a cured patient, Nora (Carson Meyer), who insists on paying Lex back for the care she provided for her when she needed it most.

It is cool to see a movie about someone who dwells in this space and, against the wishes of most families and patients she encounters, presents realities that so many are eager to diminish and deny. The perspective of this film, however, is a mostly comedic one, with Lex having a personality that seems to be in contrast to that of an individual designed to be with someone in the most difficult time of their life. The laughs the film plays for aren’t big, and the most resounding moments come when a step is taken back and the impact of Lex’s influence, good or bad, can be truly realized.

Colindrez, probably most recognizable from her role as Devon on the short-lived “I Love Dick,” has a sardonic energy that helps to define Lex, though it’s far from the strongest part of the film. Light, who played up her soap opera actress in “Before You Know It” at Sundance this year, delivers a more muted, sentimental performance that does serve as the heart of the film, opposite Ortiz’s expected turn as a parent most concerned with his daughter’s growth and success. As a whole, the film doesn’t pack much of a punch, but it’s a decent enough journey.


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