A Light Beneath Their Feet, 2015.
Directed by Valerie Weiss.
Starring Taryn Manning, Madison Davenport, Maddie Hasson, Kali Hawk, Kurt Fuller, Carter Jenkins, Nora Dunn, and Brian King.
A high school senior must choose between enrolling at the college of her dreams and remaining at home to take care of her bipolar mother.
Issues such as bipolar disorders, social anxiety, and depression are nothing to scoff at, so it’s nice that A Light Beneath Their Feet is able to wring out a genuinely terrific and earnest performance from Orange Is The New Black regular Taryn Manning, portraying a divorced mother to a high school senior that requires more looking after then her daughter, whom is caught between the predicament of enrolling to a college out-of-state or somewhere more local so she can be still stick around to continue caring for her mother.
Unfortunately, the performances from both mother Gloria and daughter Beth (played by Madison Davenport, who can also be seen in the Amy Poehler/Tina Fey led comedy Sisters later this year) is quite literally the only praiseworthy aspect regarding the film. I really do appreciate the fact that the filmmakers behind A Light Beneath Their Feet put a massive amount of effort into researching these mental conditions in order to obtain some authentic acting and elicit real drama over unintentional laughter, but the script goes completely awry within mere seconds of the film’s opening.
For starters, A Light Beneath Their Feet begins with an opening credit montage blaring some obnoxious indie-pop music, which would be bearable if not for the filmmakers continuing to fall back on using these tunes to elevate lousy teenage romance subplots and parental love. It’s easy to see why they chose this route, as it’s slightly more tolerable than some of the absolutely horrid pretentious dialogue shared between Beth and a troubled attractive boy that she wishes to take to prom.
It makes sense why this young girl chooses him as her date (he is also somewhat of a social outcast due to being a victim of a sexual act with a middle school teacher); neither of them lead normal lives. It’s something that gravitates Beth towards him, but it’s also impossible to shake that the real reason she’s attracted is because of his charming good looks. That’s not me passing judgment onto high school senior girls either, it’s literally how her character is defined. Beth also pursues this prom date even though she catches the boy she’s swooning over f****** another girl when stalking him. How is this more important to the narrative than actually exploring Beth’s ambition, career paths, and the importance of attending UCLA? It’s not, making for one disjointed flick.
There’s also a parallel story regarding this aforementioned other girl, who is essentially gothic with blue hair, and has a perfect life outside some fatherly love. Oh boo-hoo! The kicker is that her father is actually the psychiatrist and medicinal advisor to Beth’s mother, but it all results in a failed attempt at juxtaposition between the two parental figures. It could have worked, but you can’t really draw worthwhile parallels when one character is given 90% of the screen-time. Barely any motivations and suffering of this other emo girl are explored, which makes it tough to accept when she commits a dastardly cruel act.
In a movie about very real and harrowing mental conditions, it’s a travesty I have rarely been able to mention Taryn Manning. She is electric in the role as her disorders continue to grow increasingly more devastating with each passing day. She’s upbeat and tireless with the appropriate gestures and mannerisms, with a strikingly real personality to those affected with her condition. Problems aside, you also sense and feel the unwavering love for her daughter despite her haywire mind. She just isn’t given much to do!
A Light Beneath Their Feet just has an identity crisis and seemingly would rather showcase Beth’s life away from the one aspect making for emotional viewing (barring a couple scenes with her remarried father seeking justification for leaving Gloria through Beth choosing college away from home over caretaking), her legitimately sick mother. This admittedly changes towards the end, but by then, the ship has sailed to paint a truly captivating portrait of a fractured relationship.
There are some fine performances in A Light Beneath Their Feet and an admirable attempt to depict a young woman facing a very difficult decision while also calling serious attention to mental disorders, but nothing in the big picture properly comes together. It’s hard to muster up the willpower to care about any of this.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook