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A Bit of Light

Thoughtful sentiment cowers at the force of heavy handedness in “A Bit of Light.” Starring Anna Paquin and directed by her husband Stephen Moyer, “A Bit of Light” is adapted from writer Rebecca Callard’s play of the same name. Ella (Anna Paquin) is an alcoholic in recovery, who due to her addiction has lost custody of her daughters to her ex-husband Joseph (Youssef Kerkour) and his new wife, Bethan (Pippa Bennett-Warner). With her life halted, she is living back home with her father, Alan (Ray Winstone). 

Ella spends her days shrugging off group therapy sessions and sitting in parks longing for the days she could play with her daughters freely. It’s during these long sits at the nearby playground that Ella encounters Neil (Luca Hogan), a loquacious, wise beyond his years almost-14-year-old boy. He latches on to her, seeing a yearning in her that he’s determined to fill, as it seems he may possess a similar longing (he constantly mentions his much older, seemingly absent parents). So begins a cathartic friendship that buoys Ella in the waters of her self-hatred and desperation. 

“A Bit of Light” is creatively unremarkable, with uninspired visuals and editing that play like a workshop in flashbacks and cool-versus-warm emotional motifs. The film devotes the majority of its effort to the relationship between Ella and Neil, which due to the large age gap and lack of any parental conversation is taboo at best and troubling at worst. Even further, Neil’s character is written so blatantly as a device for Ella’s comfort that for a large chunk of the movie, it appears that he is either supernatural or a figment of her imagination. Aside from the fact that Neil lacks his own friends or family, he also says everything just right, is always on the periphery of scenes, in shadows or corners, and characteristically refuses to wear a coat in the chilly English weather. It isn’t until he begins interacting with the film’s other characters that we realize his actuality and are then prompted to process his peculiarity. 

In his first role, Hogan’s performance as Neil suffices for its narrative purpose. He elicits a few chuckles with his forwardness and slightly smug demeanor. However, “A Bit of Light,” prioritizes this relationship above the far more interesting chemistries that it pushes to the sidelines. Ella’s dynamic with her father contains nuggets of untapped potential. We learn that he too is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for many years, but aside from him urging her to attend meetings, this becomes a background fact. Paquin and Winstone play off each other well with Ella’s pride colliding with her father’s frustration.

The roles of Joseph and Bethan are questionable, as Joseph’s timidity and Bethan’s strong will are pretty much all we come to know about them. Neither of them seems to know how to interact with Ella, and Kerkour’s performance doesn’t permit an ounce of familiarity to suggest that they were ever married. Every encounter with Joseph or Bethan is a confrontation, and “A Bit of Light” habitually chooses to highlight elevated moments of emotion, from arguments to meltdowns, in order to sell Ella’s plight. It doesn’t treat the mere facts of her situation as enough. In choosing Neil as the center of Ella’s story and uplifting heavy scenes while skating through more grounded moments, “A Bit of Light” relies on artificial emotional investment and neglects the nuance and power of mundanity.

Peyton Robinson

Peyton Robinson is a freelance film writer based in Chicago, IL. 

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Film Credits

A Bit of Light movie poster

A Bit of Light (2024)

98 minutes


Anna Paquin as Ella

Ray Winstone as Alan

Luca Hogan as Neil

Pippa Bennett-Warner as Bethan

Youssef Kerkour as Joseph

Rebecca Callard as Waitress



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