Joe Swanberg’s ‘All the Light in the Sky’ is quietly cosmic

Jane Adams plays a middle aged actress not unlike herself in Joe Swanberg's "All the Light in the Sky." Credit: Factory 25
Jane Adams plays a middle aged actress not unlike herself in Joe Swanberg’s “All the Light in the Sky.”
Credit: Factory 25

‘All the Light in the Sky’
Director: Joe Swanberg
Stars: Jane Adams, Sophia Takal
Rating: R
3 (out of 5) Globes

The many, many films of actual independent filmmaker Joe Swanberg (“Hannah Takes the Stairs,” “Nights and Weekends”) can blend together, feeling slight and lacking in meat. He’s an observational filmmaker but sometimes, as in his alleged “sell-out” indie “Drinking Buddies,” what he’s observing isn’t of particular interest. It can be easy to overlook when he does something fairly major, as in the case of “All the Light in the Sky.”

Typically Swanberg focuses on the young, but here he takes on Jane Adams, playing a variation on herself: a middle-aged actress just keeping on. Adams is a familiar face who typically plays comically awkward (“Happiness”) or comically sexpottish (“The Anniversary Party,” “Orange County”). Here she’s serious albeit open and naturally funny — her alleged real self. Swanberg (with a co-writing assist from Adams) looks in on a brief period in her life. Her beloved, twentysomething niece (Sophia Takal) is visiting her in her tiny, literally beachside Malibu apartment. The intrusion of an outside element — plus the sudden affections of a younger man (Kent Osborne) — threaten to change her life. But is it an out she will take?

Much of the film simply spies (with, atypically for Swanberg, camera on tripod, or at least held still) on Adams as she goes about her life, mildly flustered and alone but used to it. (More typically for Swanberg, there’s a fair amount of non-casually “casual” nudity.) Adams is magnetic enough that her every movement carries real weight. But the real shock is the effectiveness of scenes where she talks to a solar engineer in preparation for an upcoming role. He goes on about global warming and about how the sun is in its middle age and working its way towards a slow death.

Traditionally, this would be the time to complain about how these scenes spell out the theme — only here it actually really does shape what is otherwise a circular narrative. This is one of those films in which no one learns anything, because that’s how life really works. But the science talk actually makes it deeper — into a rumination on acceptance of one’s insignificant spot in the grand scheme of things, and an acceptance of aging, disappointments and ingrained personality defects that won’t go away. Adams’ character has come to be okay with being lonely, being shy, having a decent but not spectacular career. Without any apparent sweat, “All the Light in the Sky” is pretty cosmic.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch reproaches NFL over domestic abuse

Anheuser-Busch chastised the NFL for its handling of domestic violence cases, making it the first major advertiser to put pressure on the league.

Local

Sen. Krueger dishes on prospect of legal marijuana…

New Yorkers may see the legalization of recreational marijuana use as early as 2015 if State Senator Liz Krueger (D) gets her way. The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act will…

Local

60 artists to fill shipping containers with work…

Starting Thursday, 63 industrial shipping containers will fill Brooklyn Bridge Park at Pier 5 for Photoville 2014. The free exhibition was founded three and a…

Local

New York City agencies to provide healthcare, legal…

Child migrants who have recently arrived in New York City and are going through deportation hearings will now have access to services from multiple agencies,…

Television

'Outlander' recap: Season 1, Episode 6: 'The Garrison…

Whipping, punching, kicking and a marriage contract. "Outlander" is not for the faint of heart this week with "The Garrison Commander."

The Word

The Word: Hey girl, it's a girl for…

It's a girl for Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes, who reportedly welcomed a daughter last Friday, according to Us Weekly. The super-private couple managed to…

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 16: 'New Girl,'…

Check out the season premiere of "New Girl," as Jess competes with Jessica Biel for a guy's attentions.

Movies

Newsflash: Corey Stoll still not a man

In director Shaun Levy's "This Is Where I Leave You," Corey Stoll stars as the oldest of four adult children (the others are played by…

MLB

5 top contenders for NL Rookie of the…

The outing rekindled award talk for deGrom, who appears to hold the top spot for NL Rookie of the Year honors. Metro breaks down a few other contenders.

College

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

College football Top 25 poll (AP rankings)

NFL

Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.

NFL

Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.

Style

Rachel Zoe: New York Fashion Week Spring 15

Rachel Zoe goes 'Glam bohemia' for Spring.

Food

Where to find SweeTango apples

Introduced in 2009, SweeTango — a hybrid of Honeycrisp and Zestar — is a sweet apple with plenty of crunch.

Style

London Fashion Week recap

London Fashion week gets in on the action with politics, heritage and summertime living.

Food

Padma Lakshmi's recipe for green mango curry

Padma Lakshmi shares her recipe for green mango curry in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."