Brightest Star is the feature film debut of writer/director Maggie Kiley, based on her acclaimed 2009 short film Some Boys Don’t Leave. Chris Lowell stars as The Boy (we never learn his real name), a college graduate who has recently been left by Charlotte (Rose McIver), the girl he met in a college astronomy course and whom he thought to be the love of his life. Through flashbacks, we learn that Charlotte, who once dreamed of working in the arts, is pursuing a career in the business world. The Boy, meanwhile, is aimlessly waiting for something worthwhile to come along--but what is this worthwhile thing? The Boy has no idea.
After Charlotte leaves, The Boy cannot bring himself--literally--to get up off the floor and move on with his life. Finally, he decides that in order to win back Charlotte he will accept a corporate job from the kindly Mr. Markovic (Clark Gregg). While he’s happy to finally feel like a real adult, he doesn’t enjoy his work. The Boy wonders, “Why am I good at the things I don’t care about, and bad at the things I do care about?” He’s a natural at what he does, but finds it stifling and unfulfilling. As a result, he continues looking for something better. This is one of the film’s main themes, which I think rings particularly true for college students and recent grads--how do you know what it is you’re meant to do with your life? How far should you go in order to find out? Should you ever settle, for the sake of being practical?
The film offers no hard and fast answers to these questions, for us or for its protagonist. But The Boy doesn’t give up his hopes of finding something better. In the process, he meets The Astronomer (Allison Janney), who is able to help steer him in the right direction, even if it’s not quite where he had intended to go. By the film’s end, we get the sense that things are just beginning for The Boy.
Brightest Star is well-cast and the script is strong, with humor and clever dialogue adding lightheartedness to a film that raises some deep, even unanswerable, questions about life. Chris Lowell is believable--and very relatable--as the confused but well-intentioned Boy who just wants to do something meaningful with his life. Allison Janney, too, is perfect as the wise but rough-around-the-edges Astronomer with whom The Boy is finally able to connect.
With a running time of a mere 80 minutes, I do think there was room to explore The Boy’s journey a bit further. And the structure, which jumps back and forth in time as the story of the relationship between Charlotte and The Boy is told through flashbacks, is a bit unclear at times. But these flaws are ultimately forgivable, as the thought-provoking film explores the questions and ideas many of us have as we, like The Boy, seek our places in the world.
Grade: A -