July 18, 2019 Above the Shadows (Movie Review)
Just when you think the theme of loneliness and invisibility has been done to death in film/television, you will unexpectedly get a fresh new take on the subject that will deconstruct the idea and turn it on its head. That is more or less what seasoned Writer/Director Claudia Myers (Kettle of Fish 2006, Fort Bliss 2014) captures in her latest film Above the Shadows set for release in theaters and on demand Friday, July 19th through Gravitas Ventures.
Winner of an audience award at Brooklyn Film Festival, the film is a realistic take on a supernatural tale following a young woman named Holly (Olivia Thirlby: Juno 2007, Dredd 2012) who has faded from the world to the point of becoming invisible. After more than a decade existing in the shadows, Holly meets the one man who can see her. Shayne Blackwell (Alan Ritchson: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014, Titans series), a disgraced MMA fighter. Holly discovers that it was one of her tabloid photographs that caused his downfall, and that she must restore him to his former glory if she wants to regain a foothold in the world around her. With Shayne, Holly awakens to love but also to the reality that she may become invisible forever.
Now perhaps this plot might come off like some heavy-handed storyline with thrills and chills, however, it’s far more subtle and character driven than that. Half the time it feels like you are eavesdropping on the character’s interactions through daily life. Which certainly felt justified considering our main character Holly is invisible to the rest of the world and is constantly eavesdropping on other’s lives including her own family’s. The film does a nice job in the opening prologue of immediately letting us sympathize with Holly.
This is not to mention the somewhat delusional grieving father Paul (Jim Gaffigan: Chuck 2016, Chappaquiddick 2017) and the oddball brother Troy (Owen Campbell: As You Are 2016, Super Dark Times 2017), who has a fascination for studying women’s legs through a telescope. Chloe lost her mother to cancer at a young age which causes her to not just run away, but vanish from society entirely. Myers wastes no time hitting you with an emotional gut punch.
Additionally, what works nicely about this film is that not only does it deal with universally emotional themes like grief and isolation from a unique angle but that it also effortlessly juggles multiple tones which never causes the film to feel disjointed. Granted some of the drama comes off a bit ham-fisted in places. Specifically the romance between Holly and Shayne, which never fully hits its landing. However, a cohesive tone is one of the trickiest jobs a director has to get right and this film certainly handles it well. There is fantasy, romance, drama, slight humor, and even an MMA sub plot thrown into it. Thankfully it all feels like it’s all coming out of the same movie because with a story like this, it could have easily come off as a silly romantic ghost story, so kudos to Myers.
The performances across the board are all solid. Olivia Thirlby grounds the film beautifully, never making anything out to be cheesy or lame even when it teeters on melodrama. Jim Gaffigan, though he doesn’t have much to do, continues to prove he’s more than just a dry comedian saying so much without saying much at all as the grieving father of Holly that just can’t let go the loss of his wife. Alan Ritchson has a very natural presence and might have the most demanding role in the whole film. He has to get beaten up senseless in his MMA cage fights and then pour his emotional guts out. Even Megan Fox (Transformers 2007, Jennifer’s Body 2009) gives a perfectly fine performance as a Juliana, the famous actress/ex-girlfriend of Shayne Blackwell.
Now on a slightly negative note, though you will most likely enjoy Above the Shadows while watching it and appreciate the originality to the material… it remains to be seen who the audience for this film is. Maybe there isn’t an audience for it yet or perhaps it’s ahead of its time. It’s a quirky yet genuinely heartfelt little indie that anyone experiencing a loss of a loved one or just ever felt shut out from society should check out at least once. You certainly will find something to connect with here even if the overall film does not fully stay in your subconscious long after it’s finished. It is for all these reasons Cryptic Rock gives Above the Shadows 3.5 out of 5 stars.