Despite what most Hollywood movies tell us, life continues after 50. And that’s for fellas – knock that down to 35 if you’re a lady. In recent months films like Book Club, Gloria Bell, and The Wife shared stories about women in their fifties, sixties, and seventies figuring out how to lead their best lives with as little testosterone-fueled bullshit as possible. Add director Shelagh Carter’s feature Into Invisible Light to that list. The movie follows a woman struggling to find her place in the world after losing her husband of 25-years.
After Helena’s (Jennifer Dale) husband dies, she doesn’t know what to do with herself. But she doesn’t lack options. Helena lives in a giant house, brunches with wealthy friends, and wears nice clothes, but these things don’t fulfill her. Alone for the first time in 25-years, the world around her feels brand new, but also daunting. And before moving forward, Helena must figure out why her life didn’t turn out the way she expected.
Right on cue, Michael (Peter Keleghan) shows up in her life. Michael, a charming novelist dated Helena way back in the day, and they haven’t seen each other in 25-years. He now has a wife and teenage daughter, but that doesn’t prevent the former lovers from getting together for “coffee.” Their dalliance sparks a change in Helena and inspires her to carry on her long-lost dream of being a writer. But it’s not all puppy dog eyes and glasses of red wine, and the two old flames’ tryst has bitter consequences.
Through the benefit of hindsight, when I look back at my life, I see it unfolding in stages. But in the moment, I drift from phase to phase, not knowing when one chapter ends and the next one begins. Self-defining moments and life-altering decisions don’t happen often. And more often than I care to admit, I’ve looked around and asked myself, “How did I get here?” This universal question sits at the heart of Helena’s story.
Helena finds herself at a turning point in her life, and she is afraid it’s too late to chase after her youthful passion: writing. Most of us have had to choose between following our heads or following our hearts, and so I found Helena’s emotional journey relatable. But this film’s shortcomings soured me on the experience.
The problem with Into Invisible Light is it comes off like people acting out a philosophical debate. Much of the film feels like conversations grafted onto a scene rather than characters with interior lives revealing what makes them tick. When a movie drops lines like, “I believed in you more than you believed in yourself,” and “I understand the need to run from darkness, believe me,” you know you’re in for a bumpy ride. These characters don’t speak or act like human beings. They’re exposition machines. This narrative choice made it impossible for me to get lost in the story.
Dale’s strong performance isn’t enough to carry this flawed picture. Carter batters the audience over the head with the script’s blunt themes. It gets so bad I wanted to shout at the screen, “I get it already!” And making matters worse, the bare-bones presentation is less than inviting. Listless scenes go on too long, the repetitive score grates on the nerves, and uneven performances act like tonal leaks that deflate the dramatic tension.
Before watching Into Invisible Light consider what you demand from a film before handing over 100-minutes of your time. Are you seeking out in-depth character studies, themes revealing universal truths, and insights into other cultures? Or maybe morality lessons, endearing personalities, and mindless distraction? Great films tick off many boxes. Good films tick a few. Thanks to Dale’s lead performance, Into Invisible Light ticks at least one.