Review by Sean Boelman
Although the romantic drama genre isn’t known for consistent quality, it is usually pretty obvious from the get go what the intention of any given one is. Renji Philips’s The Wake of Light is the rare case in which that isn’t so obvious, and not in a good way, resulting in the entire affair feeling like a muddled mess.
The film is about a young woman who spends her days caring for her aging father and selling water bottled from their family’s well as she meets a charming traveller who asks her to join him on his journey. For the most part, it’s a relatively straightforward story, but weird flourishes such as the well subplot make it feel like a Hallmark movie that somehow got a full release.
At under an hour and twenty minutes in length, the movie isn’t obtrusive in any way — but by the time the credits roll, one is left wondering what content there was of substance. It’s an enormously slight film, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but when the movie seemingly lacks any sense of purpose, the result feels rather pointless.
There is a point in the film at which the message is spelled out for the audience, and canny viewers will pick up on how this is surprisingly toxic. The movie suggests that for one person to achieve happiness, another must sacrifice their own, and while this may be meant well, it is quite muddled in execution.
The character development in the film is also really shallow. Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that there is little to no investment in the central relationship despite it being a romance. There are times at which viewers will be unable to tell whether or not the characters are romantically interested in each other or simply mere acquaintances.
That said, the two leads have surprisingly good chemistry together. Matt Bush and Rome Brooks would probably do a great job sharing the screen together in a more effectively-written romantic comedy. That said, since the characters are so poorly-written, their performances can’t go very far.
Visually, the movie is admittedly more ambitious than most entries in the genre, but it’s still not especially memorable. There is a problem with oversaturation, but there are also some good shots that take advantage of the film’s setting. For the most part, it’s competent, but never does it go above and beyond.
The Wake of Light isn’t particularly original, nor is it exceptionally bad in a way as to make it worth watching in that regard. It’s the type of movie that will be forgotten just as quickly as it came in a year overpacked with content.
The Wake of Light hits VOD on January 15.