A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
All hell breaks loose. The daughter runs from the table, and the brother follows her out of the house, trying to make peace. We can see the two women are bitter enemies, although the mother probably would not see it that way; she uses prayer as a weapon, just as much as her daughter uses alienation and aggression.
This scene sets up the emotional conflict in "Light of Day," which shows a family tearing itself apart despite the best efforts of the son, who wants to hold things together at almost any cost. This is a family drama, all right - but not one of those neat docudramas in which every character comes attached to a fashionable problem, and all the problems are solved in the same happy ending. The family in "Light of Day" is more like your average, everyday, unhappy family in which the biggest problem is that some of the members quite simply hate each other.
Writer-director Paul Schrader tells his story against a working-class background in Cleveland. The parents (Gena Rowlands and Jason Miller) have worked hard for their share of suburban respectability. The children (Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett) play every night in a rock band, and although Fox has a daytime job in a factory, Jett's life is on hold until the sun goes down; she says rock 'n' roll is the most important thing in the world, and she means it.
Because she means it, life is not very healthy for her little boy, a son born out of wedlock by a father she refuses to name. It is this child that has driven the wedge between mother and daughter. And soon he becomes the focus of her relationship with her brother. When their band goes on a tour - sometimes playing for no more than a few bucks and free drinks - the child is left in cheap motel rooms, and Fox doesn't approve of that. Jett, filled with anger and defiance, won't listen to his objections, and Fox stands by helplessly, trying to be all things to all people.