AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2013
By Don Simpson | October 27, 2013
Director: Maggie Kiley
Writers: Maggie Kiley, Matthew Mullen
Starring: Chris Lowell, Rose McIver, Clark Gregg, Jessica Szohr, Allison Janney, Peter Jacobson, Elvy Yost, Peter Maloney, Alex Kaluzhsky
Breakup films are a dime a dozen these days, but what amazes me is how many of these films begin with the breakup then bounce back and forth between the past and present from that point. Even though Maggie Kiley’s Light Years follows a similar ADHD narrative trajectory, this toned down tale of two angelic bodies who meet cute in Astronomy 101 injects a much needed boost of realism to the breakup film genre.
Light Years begins as a recent college graduate (Chris Lowell) regains consciousness with a brutal hangover in the hallway of the apartment in which he lived with Charlotte (Rose McIver) up until the day before. Equally embarrassed and devastated, he has nowhere to go and presumably no means to support himself; but the new residents of the apartment — Lita (Jessica Szohr) and Ray (Alex Kaluzhsky) — are nice enough to allow him to continue to crash at their place until he finds his footing again.
As the narrative jumps back in time, we observe the highs and lows of his relationship of Charlotte — from ogling her from afar to their arguments about his post-collegiate lack of career drive. Because of all of the jumping around in the timeline of the story, it is difficult to get a handle on just how long their relationship lasts. There seems to be a strong magnetic connection that attracts the two starstruck lovers together; but just like stellar nucleosynthesis, their relationship grows heavier and heavier until they achieve burn out, leaving a black hole of emptiness in their wake.
Post-breakup, he is merely a ghost of his former self. The lack of initiative that Charlotte used to criticize him for is now rendering him listless. Seemingly unable to move on and become self-sufficient, he eventually turns to Lita for help. It is not long until he grows into the financially secure person whom Charlotte presumably wanted him to become, and it grows increasingly clear that the trajectory of his orbit is set towards colliding with Charlotte once again.
Light Years is an interesting observation of the the ebb and flow of relationships — specifically the way that some people bounce aimlessly from relationship to the next. In its hopeless (yet often accurate) portrayal of love, the protagonists of Light Years repeatedly latch themselves onto whichever life raft happens to float closest to their path. In Kiley’s world, human beings are just like any other astral bodies of the universe. While destiny seems to predefine the path they take, the attraction to other nearby bodies may occasionally pull them off course. Just like the protagonists of Light Years, the attraction is often left unexplained; it could just be due to physical attraction or a shared affinity for waxing philosophical about astronomy.