ABOVE THE SHADOWS – Review by Leslie Combemale

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Loss changes us. Sometimes we face that, sometimes we don’t. That’s something new indie release and winner of the audience award at the Brooklyn Film Festival Above the Shadows explores. A fantasy anchored in the reality of 21st century daily life, it is the story of Holly, (Olivia Thirlby) who, after losing her beloved mother, fades out of sight over time. She becomes invisible to what is left of her family, and to everyone in the outside world. When she stumbles upon Shayne (Alan Ritchson) a man who can actually hear and see her, Holly endeavors to find a way back from her living ghosthood with his help.

Writer/director Claudia Myers has created what is essentially a fairy tale. She takes unlikable protagonist Holly on a hero’s journey. Avoiding dealing with the trauma of her grief has led to her erasure. It is only in passing through darkness and both offering and seeking help, that she will become present again. All this is told through Holly’s developing relationship with Shayne and the examination of her broken connection to her family.

Though the plot and dialogue occasionally feel heavy handed in their messages about the power of empathy and the dangers of post-trauma isolation, the actors are always fully committed. Thirlby and Ritchson have great chemistry and are wonderful together. They compel viewer commitment from the film’s beginning through to the last scene. Guitarist virtuoso Kaki King lends her idiosyncratic, dreamy, emotional style to the score, helping weave fantasy and reality together. Above the Shadows is an interesting journey that is well worth taking.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Above the Shadows is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for July 19, 2019

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Leslie Combemale

Leslie Combemale writes as Cinema Siren on her own website, CinemaSiren.com, and is a frequent contributor to MPA's TheCredits.org, where she interviews filmmakers above and below the line, with a focus on women and diverse voices. She is the Senior Contributor at AWFJ.org. Leslie is in her 9th year as producer and moderator of the influential "Women Rocking Hollywood" panel at San Diego Comic-Con. She is a world-renowned expert on cinema art and her film art gallery, ArtInsights, located near DC, has celebrated cinema art and artists for 30 years.