There are moments in director David Midell's NightLights that play like PSAs, but that earnestness is paved over by wonderfully affecting performances. Twenty-something Erin (Shawna Waldron) is the sole caretaker of her autistic twin brother, Jacob (Stephen Louis Grush). It's a wholly consuming responsibility, and Erin has put her dreams of being a painter on the back burner, seemingly forever, to meet it. But in quick succession Nicole (Kate Black-Spence), a bubbly new neighbor, moves in upstairs, and an attractive man shows romantic interest in Erin — related events that rupture her vision of her life.
Eventually, a freak accident makes her realize that her good intentions may actually be holding Jacob back, forcing her to make a potentially wrenching decision. There are huge gaps in the script; we never know what Nicole does for a living or why she's always on call to help Erin, so she's more a plot device than a real character. We're never told just how Erin is able to support herself and Jacob in their sprawling apartment. But Waldron, who looks a bit like Annabella Sciora, gives a moving performance, conveying Erin's deep love, exhaustion, and determination, while Grush is almost flawless as Jacob, sidestepping tics and gimmicks to instead show the complex, layered man beyond the diagnosis.
David MidellShawna Waldron, Stephen Louis Grush, Kate Black-Spence