Movie Review: Stuck in town, waiting for “The Wake of Light”

“The Wake of Light” is a dreamy, reflective movie, something of an interior monologue delivered by a stoic loner living out her limited life in a small town in the Southwest.

It’s built on lots of solitary (mostly) walks through the scenery of Sutter Creek, California by our rather colorless, closed-off heroine. For all that walking and (again mostly) interior talking, the tale is a relatively short journey, from insulated and trapped to a little bit less so. Which is a roundabout way of calling it “dull.”

Filmmaker Renji Philip returns to his longtime muse, Rome Brooks (“Cheesecake Caserole”) for this forlorn tale of loss that’s led to a life of limited risks.

Mary tends to her stroke-victim father (William Lige Morton), visits the well pump behind the family homestead and fills bottles with the crisp water that comes out. She puts a candy cane colored straw in each, loads up a tray and makes her rounds through town, selling the bottles, picking up the empties from supportive stores along the way.

She doesn’t chat with anyone much, save for the special needs kid Russell (Tyler Steelman). Even after she meets the needy/pushy traveling stranger (Matt Bush of “The Goldbergs”) she’s hard-pressed to keep a conversation going.

He talks and talks, imposes his company on her, ignoring her social signals, her “I can’t” and “I need to go now” and later “You should leave.”

Cole goes on and on, and we pick up that he’s from Danville, Va. (“Mostly rednecks and hillbillies.”) and on his way to Grand Flats, Utah, that his Honda Civic broke down on the edge of town, that he’s staying in it as he criss-crosses the country, seeing the sites.

He follows her as she makes her rounds and finally figures out a way to ingratiate himself into her world. One little repair job at her house, and he’s joining her and her silent-dad for dinner. And eventually, this woman who’s never been anywhere takes his reaching-out seriously enough to want to show him her “favorite place.”

There’s little chemistry between the leads, which is somewhat by design. He’s interested, and she’s more into the solitude.

And there’s very little that happens here, just Mary narrating prayers in this place where nature can give you a sensitivity to the spiritual.

“If you’re real, show me how to find you.”

“Wake” isn’t entirely plotless, but what plot points there are don’t reach out and grab you, and don’t really reward you for meeting the movie more than halfway. What few incidents there are play as predictable and drab.

But if you’re into musing about the ethereal with an immaculately put together but uninteresting character as she sits in the sun, runs her fingers over tree bark or walks in the surf, have at it.

MPA Rating: unrated

Cast: Rome Brooks, Matt Bush, William Lige Morton, Tyler Steelman and Sandra Seeling.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Renji Philip. An Axis Pacific Filmworks release.

Running time: 1:19

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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