Film Review: ‘Above the Shadows’

Variety | 7/19/2019 | Courtney Howard
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Grief-fueled romantic fantasies can be tricky for filmmakers not named Wim Wenders. Everyone aspires to make “Wings of Desire” with its stirring immediacy, beautiful imagery and pressing poignancy, but most wind up delivering something closer to its decent but dreary American remake, “City of Angels” — which could also be said for writer-director Cynthia Myers’ “Above the Shadows.” This magical-realist fairy tale, about a young woman feeling so isolated and insignificant after a tragic loss that she’s literally invisible to everyone except one other struggling soul, is certainly imaginative and intelligent in its ideas. However, the savvy smarts within don’t quite sustain the running time and, much like its protagonist, the film becomes transparent in its motives and sentimentality.

Holly (played in younger years by Fina Strazza, later by Olivia Thirlby) was extremely close to her mom Victoria (Maria Dizzia) growing up. As a middle child sandwiched in between two siblings who outshined her in brains and beauty, Holly felt insecure, though never unnoticed when Mom was around. Everything changes for the family once Victoria is struck with a terminal illness. Those warm, lovely, sunshine-filled days Holly once knew transition into colder, duller ones. Without Mom focusing light on her forgotten child, Holly begins to fade from the memory of the surviving family members, as well as the rest of the world. She turns invisible, and with no other options afforded her, disappears into the dark recesses of the city.

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Holly rises to the challenge, striking out on her own in her teens, adapting to the changed world around her. She discovers how to get by, living in the shadows of the night, taking full advantage of the new opportunities presented to her. Excelling as a photojournalist who exposes celebrities’ dirty laundry for a popular...
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