Our Review

                    Movie:  GHOSTLIGHT

                Rating: R, Strong language and                                         mature themes`

                          Length: 1:55

                Release Date: June 14, 2024

Jeanne: Chicago is a great town for theatre --- both big and small. It hosts a plethora of small community theatres, so it’s no surprise that filmmakers and life partners, Alex Thompson and Kelly O’Sullivan chose to remain in their hometown to make their newest film, GHOSTLIGHT.


Directed by Thompson, based on a screenplay by O’Sullivan, who also co-directed, GHOSTLIGHT is a moving, at times hilarious, story about a construction worker named Dan, played brilliantly by Chicago veteran stage and screen actor Keith Kupferer, who unwittingly gets involved with a local community theatre group. Dan, his schoolteacher wife, Sharon (Tara Mallen), and their 16-year-old daughter, Daisy (Katherine Mallen Kupferer), are still reeling from the tragic death of their son/brother, Brian, the year before.


On a construction site, doing his job, Dan encounters Rita (Dolly De Leon, fabulous in 2022’s TRIANGLE OF SADNESS), the founder of a small acting troupe known as the Rube Mechanicals. She’s livid because of the noise being made while her actors are rehearsing their production of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”. She immediately notices Dan, particularly his rage and vulnerability.


He rebuffs her entreaties to join their ensemble at first, but as things between him and his wife and daughter become more chaotic, he finds solace in this motley crew. And as things progress, he finds that he might actually have a talent for acting. And when Daisy joins the production, her bond with her father becomes even stronger and together they experience the healing power of the theatre. 

GHOSTLIGHT is unique in the fact that Keith, Tara and Katherine are a family in real life, which translates beautifully on film. Not all parents would be able to work with their children --- especially a 15-year-old, as Katherine was during filming, but these three individuals give astounding performances. They come across as a true family in trauma because of the obvious strong relationships they share.


And due to other drama in O’Sullivan’s terrific script --- and it is exceptional --- Dan and Rita end up playing Romeo and Juliet despite their ages. It’s a hoot, and yet Kupferer and De Leon have marvelous chemistry. He’s a big guy and she’s tiny, but fierce --- and they just click. It’s a joy to watch.


The remaining thespians in Rita’s troupe are mostly repertory actors working in Chicago known by Thompson and O’Sullivan. The ensemble includes Hanna Dworkin, Dexter Zollicoffer, H.B. Ward, Tommy Rivera Vega, and Alma Washington --- all incredibly gifted actors.


Built around Kupferer’s nuanced, multi-layered portrayal,

GHOSTLIGHT is at once heart-rending and uplifting --- the sign of writing genius and luminous acting. Don’t miss this gem ---


Opinion: Strong See It Now!

David: GHOSTLIGHT features a totally original storyline about a family dealing with the death of Brian, their 17-year-old son/brother. It is exceedingly well written and acted. GHOSTLIGHT is truly a family affair as the actors portraying the bereaved father, mother and daughter are a family in real life.


The surviving sibling, Daisy (Katherine Mallen Kupferer), has serious anger issues culminating with a physical attack on a teacher. We don’t witness that, only the meeting afterwards with her parents and the school’s principal.


Daisy’s parents are portrayed by Keith Kupferer as Dan and Tara Mullen as Sharon. Both are veteran actors and exceptional in their roles here. When Dan, a construction worker with no prior acting experience, is drawn to a community production of “Romeo and Juliet” --- he’s reluctant at first --- his involvement helps him to cope with his son’s death. His previously pent-up feelings are exposed to the small acting troupe. Katherine is a delight to watch in this, her second significant role. 

GHOSTLIGHT is an intriguing story to follow as it builds to the climactic single performance of Shakespeare’s tragedy. The cleverly conceived writing by Kelly O’Sullivan and expert direction by her and Alex Thompson make this a very strong movie. There are even more family connections. O’Sullivan and Thompson are a couple in real life and celebrated the birth of their first child last December.


The film does not boast any household celebrity names in the cast, but the ensemble is particularly good, even a car driver whose only scene has him dragged from his vehicle by an angry Dan. Those troupe members who help to elevate the story are repertory actors the filmmakers knew in Chicago. They are Hanna Dworkin, Dexter Zollicoffer, H.B. Ward, Tommy Rivera Vega, and Alma Washington.


But the real scene stealer is a Filipino woman named Dolly De Leon who was honored for her role in the 2022 Oscar-nominated TRIANGLE OF SADNESS. It is De Leon’s character, Rita, who manages to get the reluctant Dan involved in their little production. At the film’s end, Rita hugs Dan after their “Romeo & Juliet” is a big success, and she promises the next play will be a comedy.


The film’s odd title refers to the single bulb left on by theatre companies when the stage goes dark. It’s a well-known theatrical superstition.


Opinion:  See It Now!