'Autumn Lights': Film Review

Courtesy of Last Carnival
A self-important look at characters who aren't nearly as interesting as they think they are.
10/21/2016

Angad Aulakh's debut feature finds an American entering an international romantic triangle in the Icelandic countryside.

Americans Angad Aulakh and Guy Kent adopt the starkness of Iceland's coastline as the setting for their debut feature Autumn Lights, in which the latter man stars and the former writes/directs. Playing a photographer whose working vacation doesn't go as planned, Kent perfectly embodies the weirdly solemn mood of a picture whose Bergmanesque ambitions aren't backed up by any discernable spiritual depth. Some nice vistas are scant reason for stateside moviegoers to take notice, especially given Iceland's increasingly common presence in art houses.

Kent's David enters the film via a glum argument with a girlfriend, who stares out the window of their rented house for a bit before telling him she's going. "What about this place?" he asks, wearing his priorities on his sleeve. "We got it for the season!"

Out shooting scenic photos after her departure, David discovers a body on a black-sand beach. The woman was clearly a suicide, but local detectives strangely insist that he stick around for a while as they investigate. That gives David a chance to meet his neighbors Marie and Johann (Marta Gastini and Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson), whose own relationship seems only a bit sturdier than his was.

In the dinner party and one-on-one scenes that follow, David becomes entangled in the couple's social scene, then in Marie's muddled sex life. But however tricky the interactions might sound on paper, on screen they utterly fail to catch fire. At one point, a blonde woman about to get into bed with Marie strips, poses and gazes blankly into a mirror. "I'm so tired," she reports. While the character may be complaining about the midnight-sun atmospherics of an Iceland summer (despite the pic's title, it is clearly set in June or July), viewers may suffer similar effects from the empty ponderousness suffocating the film.

Distributor: Freestyle Releasing
Production companies: Last Carnival, Mystery Productions
Cast: Guy Kent, Marta Gastini, Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson
Director-screenwriter: Angad Aulakh
Producers: Angad Aulakh, Guy Kent, Ashley M. Kent, David Oskar Olafsson, Arni Filippusson
Executive producers: Amrit Kaur, Anthony W. Orlando, Linda Hunter Harris
Director of photography: Arni Filippusson
Production designer: Hulda Helgadottir
Costume designer: Julianna Lara Steingrimsdottir
Editor: Valdis Oskarsdottir
Composer: Hugi Gudmondsson

In English, Icelandic and Italian

Not rated, 98 minutes

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