Luminous Motion (2000)

Directed by Bette Gordon
Written by Scott Bradfield & Robert Roth, based on the novel The History of Luminous Motion by Bradfield
Starring Eric Lloyd, Deborah Kara Unger, Jamey Sheridan, Terry Kinney, Paz de la Huerta

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Phillip (Lloyd) has a nomadic existence, to put it lightly. He and his mother (Unger) have been on the run from everything for a few years: the law, Phillip's father, anything that could possibly hold them in one place has been discarded. They drive from town to town, Mom sleeps with some guy, then next morning walks out with money, jewelry, anything that's not nailed down. Phillip stays in the back seat mostly and reads books about physics and chemistry. A true MENSA candidate, he narrates the story and admits he's not sure what actually happened and what he dreamed up. But when his father keeps showing up and talking to him, telling him things--Phillip knows that he's got to move a lot faster if he means to get away and keep his mother safe.

Evidence in how smart editing, a decent score, and clever cinematography can bolster a subpar script. Or at least a script that needs to stay interesting long enough to get interesting all on its own--and if this film has a strength, that's sure as heck it. Because when this film starts to drive inexplicably, oddly...towards Creepsville, it does so just like Phillip--with a lead foot. But until you get there, there's just enough in the way of weird camera effects and subtle nuances in the way a shot is established to keep you wondering just what the hell is going on.

Getting in the way of that are such things as Beatrice (de la Huerta), who spits out feminist dogma that either seems out of place or feels like the director or the screenwriters literally stepping in the frame to say "Message!" Also, there's Rodney (James Berland), Phillip's hoodlum friend who seems to be there only to drive home some more messages--although I'm not sure what they involve other than some hokey crap about black magic and ritualistically hanging Ken dolls. I'm sure he and Beatrice were suppposed to symbolize some kind of yin and yang bit--but I'll be damned if I can figure out what it was.

But still--giving this film points are the several minutes it took me to establish some kind of whacked out idea in my head of what I had just watched. That, and the fact I was doing it to the Tom Waits song "Yesterday Is Here," which accompanies the end credits. Longtime readers will know that I'm a sucker for any film with the good taste to have Waits on the soundtrack. If there's a strong point among the acting, I would have to say it belonged to Terry Kinney's Pedro...who starts out as a very nice guy and then...well, I don't want to give anything away. But let's just say the boy has range.

When all's said and done, this is a great rental for messing with your head on one of those nights when that's necessary.

Buy it on DVD from Amazon!
Buy the novel from Amazon!

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