Movies

At First Light is most useful as a primer for those completely unacquainted with sci-fi

There’s a suggestion, played out in the 1997 movie
Contact, that if extraterrestrials became aware of our
radio and TV broadcasts, they might respond in kind.

At First Light feels like that; as though someone
watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Stranger
Things, Escape to Witch Mountain
and a few more, shuffled
them up and made their own product.

Beamed here from another star, the message would be: We
understand you! But if we assume the film is terrestrial, it’s
a duller takeaway: We have very little new or original to say.

Stefanie Scott stars as Alex, a high-school student who
encounters some weird lights one night after a kegger, and
walks away with special powers, mostly involving magnetism.

Drawn to her as though made of iron himself is Sean (Théodore
Pellerin), who’s looking after his younger brother with no
other caregiver except a comatose grandmother. Sean tries to
help Alex evade shadowy government forces. Both kids are aided
by Cal (Saïd Taghmaoui), a citizen scientist in a plaid shirt
and a beat-up four-by-four.

Writer/director Jason Stone hails from Johannesburg (Earth),
and is thus surely aware that most of his images – nosebleeds
that signal great power; flocks of birds flying in weird
formations; convoys of black SUVs tearing across the dusty
desert, hazmat suits; etc. – are worn-out clichés of the genre.
But he shows little interest in trying anything new; even the
“three months later …” coda felt like a textbook conclusion.

The actors are fine, though the drab screenplay does them no
favours. At First Light may thus function as a useful
primer for those completely unacquainted with sci-fi; the very
young, say, or those from off-world.

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