It's hard not to admire the visual artistry in co-writer-directors Alexei Kaleina and Craig Macneill's "The Afterlight," with its beautifully composed shots of lyrical, sometimes-ominous countryside and near-painterly, lived-in interiors; Zoe White's cinematography is nothing short of masterful. At the same time, it's hard to embrace this glacially paced, symbolism-heavy film's elusive — when it's not being elliptical — story about a city couple's escape to rural life.
Andrew (Michael Kelly) and Claire's (Jicky Schnee) move into an abandoned, upstate New York schoolhouse does little to mend the emotional rift that began after Claire became pregnant, though she has yet to tell Andrew of their impending child or of an eerie, related accident that occurred.
A handful of new neighbors — a blind, adult orphan (Ana Asensio); her aging aunt (the late Rhoda Pauley) and a nosy child (Morgan Taddeo) — variously intersect with Andrew and Claire before and during a climactic solar eclipse, but their effect on the unmarried lovers, like the tone of the rest of the movie, feels overly muted.
A single, vivid scene between Claire and Andrew's haunted father (Rip Torn), the culmination of an ongoing conversation that until then is heard but unseen, brings welcome momentum. But it provides only a temporary jump-start to this Bergman-lite mood piece.
"The Afterlight." No MPAA Rating. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.