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film review

Stefanie Scott in At First Light.PETR MAUR petrmaur@yahoo/Gravitas Ventures

  • At First Light
  • Directed by Jason Stone
  • Written by Jason Stone and Andrew C. Erin
  • Starring Théodore Pellerin and Stefanie Scott
  • Classification TV-14; 90 minutes

Rating:

3 out of 4 stars

The rare example of an understated, effectively told young-adult yarn that places emphasis on grounded characters, nuanced performances and stunning visuals over convolution and clichés, Canadian filmmaker Jason Stone’s At First Light boasts unpretentious but exciting surface-level charms.

Théodore Pellerin delivers a formidable and physically demanding leading turn as an impoverished California teenager who agrees to help his estranged best friend and lifelong crush (Stefanie Scott) outrun government agents wanting to question and test her after a close encounter with an alien presence leaves her with increasingly volatile superpowers.

Théodore Pellerin and Stefanie Scott in At First Light.PETR MAUR petrmaur@yahoo/Gravitas Ventures

Like most stories about alien invasions, there’s a thin immigration metaphor here, but the actors, a pronounced sense of setting, and Stone’s impressive style results in a film that’s more memorable than most cynically tossed off young-adult cash grabs. Stone’s work is simplistic, but resolutely focused, offering nifty twists on coming of age and body horror tropes within the margins. Outside of a mawkish, but ambitiously ambiguous ending, it’s an engaging, thoughtfully composed piece of entertainment.