‘No Light and No Land Anywhere’: LAFF Review

Courtesy of LA Film Festival
Lacks stylistic vitality.

Amber Sealey’s low-budget indie drama follows a British woman searching for her long-absent father in Los Angeles.

More akin to a novella than a full-fledged narrative, Amber Sealey’s third feature is a pained family drama dealing with a desperate woman’s quest for redemption and reconciliation with her estranged father. Although it merited a special jury mention at the recent LA Film Festival, at 75 minutes No Light and No Land Anywhere may be too slight for theatrical play, making it a better fit for VOD platforms.

As both writer and director, Sealey sets herself the considerable challenge of not only making a distinctly unlikable protagonist marginally more agreeable, but also crafting a persuasive narrative from overwhelmingly prosaic material. After fortyish Lexi (Gemma Brockis) bails on her rocky marriage following the death of her mother, she abandons London in favor of Los Angeles, where she hopes to locate her father John (Richard Sealey), who walked out on the family more than three decades earlier.

Although she’s unfamiliar with the city, has no transportation and doesn’t really know where to begin looking, Lexi stumbles from one faint clue to the next, connecting the dots between her dad’s last known acquaintances until she locates his bedridden second ex-wife Ethel (Deborah Dopp) and her own half-sister Tanya (Jennifer LaFleur), who’s not so thrilled to find an unfamiliar relative turning up unannounced on her doorstep. Lexi’s attitude is intrusive, abrasive and insistent, which doesn’t endear her much with her new acquaintances, with the exception of a couple of barflies (Kent Osborne, David Sullivan) she occasionally hooks up with during her extended stay in a tatty hotel room. By the time she exhausts most of her newfound contacts, Lexi has alienated almost everyone she’s crossed paths with, but still holds out hope of locating her father.

Director-writer Sealey leaves it an open question as to whether Lexi may be suffering from an undiagnosed psychological condition or just self-medicating with booze, but her behavior is certainly self-destructive enough to send out warning signals. British stage actress Brockis sinks her teeth into the role, but it's so insubstantial that not much is communicated beyond Lexi's desperate quest for connection. LaFleur turns in a brief but crucial performance as Lexi’s hostile sister, who's struggling anew with the fallout of their errant father’s various transgressions, whether real or imagined.

The small cast features quite a few nonprofessionals, mostly seniors, in brief and sometimes inconsequential supporting roles. Sealey’s directing is equally improvised, frequently relying on practical locations, available light and handheld camerawork. Approximately 20 percent of the running time consists of non-dialogue sequences depicting Lexi wandering randomly around L.A. with an aimlessness that eventually seems to suffuse the entire film.  

Venue: LA Film Festival (LA Muse)
Production companies: Part Participation Films, Ajna Films
Cast: Gemma Brockis, Jennifer LaFleur, Kent Osborne, David Sullivan, Deborah Dopp, Richard Sealey
Director-writer: Amber Sealey
Producers: Alysa Nahmias, Drea Clark, Amber Sealey
Executive producers: Miranda July, Ben Thoma, Andy Holliday, Ryan Funnell
Director of photography: Catherine Goldschmidt
Production designer: Michael Fitzgerald
Editor: Patrick Nelson Barnes
Music: Jeffrey Brodsky

Not rated, 75 minutes