ABOVE THE SHADOWS – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

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What would it be like to be invisible? We’ve all probably imagined the freedom invisibility would give us to go where we wanted and listen in on private conversations and all the forbidden information they might contain. But there are practical considerations, too, like having to be especially careful when venturing into crowds or trying to have an injury treated.

Holly Jederman (Olivia Thirlby), the protagonist in Claudia Myers’ drama Above the Shadows, is not only invisible, but also unheard. She started fading at the age of 10, just after her mother died, and is unremembered by her family.

She is startled one day when a bouncer (Alan Ritchson) sees her in a bar where she is going to ply her trade—photographing celebrities behaving badly and selling the photos to the tabloids—and escorts her from the premises. She recognizes him as a prizefighter she photographed whose life went down the tubes shortly after her pictures were published. She believes that if she can get his life back on track, she will become part of the world again.

We all feel overlooked, even invisible and voiceless, from time to time, but Myers challenges us to look at ourselves through the eyes of others and drop our self-centered grievances and wants long enough to see what other people may be going through. Myers’ script is ingenious and her direction of her actors masterful in negotiating the trickier aspects of making a scene with a supposedly invisible character work.

Thirlby is so charismatic onscreen that it’s hard to believe she could ever be invisible, even as a fictional character, and her work with Ritchson is moving and believable. As a person who has courted invisibility as a survival mechanism and felt the sting of loneliness that accompanies it, I found this film both wise and painfully personal. It also provides a much-needed lesson in the ethics of privacy to a thoughtless, rapacious world. This is one from the heart.

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

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Marilyn Ferdinand

Marilyn Ferdinand founded and blogs at Ferdy on Films. She cofounded the fundraising For the Love of Films: The Film Preservation Blogathon. She has written on film and film preservation for Humanities magazine, Fandor, Cine-File and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. She lives in the Chicago area.