13 July 2019 | EyeAskance
Meditiative and melancholy genre-clash, nicely tendered on a pinched budget
LIGHT AND THE SUFFERER is a highly unusual little exercise in dreamy cross-genre abstraction which centers on two young native-Manhattan brothers, one a hopeless crack addict, the other a more grounded, though susceptive college dropout. They mutually agree that starting a new life in California would benefit them both, but lacking the necessary funds for this move, they devise a scheme to rob a kingpin dope-pusher. Things don't go quite as planned, however, and the pair soon find themselves being followed by a "sufferer"... a quadrapedal, silent being with a humanlike head. Though these creatures are confirmed to be extraterrestrial, no further exposition regarding their origin is given...their existence in the world is clearly understood, and moreless acknowledged with offhand disenchantment. They are regarded with some disesteem, however, in that they habitually stalk individuals in the midst of a crisis. The motives for this behavior are argued but never made clear, though being "followed" is seen to be a potentially distressing ordeal which carries a touchy social stigma.
An earnest microbudget endeavor sourced from a story by cult writer Jonathan Lethem, and it couldn't have been a more faithful adaption. Remarkably well played by its young leads, it's borderline avant-gard in its stylization, and alluringly shot with an artful eye. Methodically slow-burning from beginning to end, its primary focus is on the situation afflicting the key characters, rather than on the fantastical ubiety of a tailgating alien. It could be argued that the creatures have a figurative placement in the story, though what, exactly, they might represent is anybody's guess. I personally don't have a problem with inexplicit narratives, but it's likely to frustrate some viewers, as will the primitive but sparingly used CGI effects.
In a nutshell, a flawed but mindfully prepared ambrosia with a pinch of hard-boiled noir, a dash of sci-fi, and a sprinkling of plaintive sentiment...an oddly flavorful dish, but one unlikely to appease all appetites.