For seven years since the death of their mother, Chicago designer Erin (Shawna Waldron) has lived with and cared for her non-verbal, low-functioning autistic brother, Jacob (Stephen Louis Grush).
The arrangement is a source of unconditional love but also constraining hardship, and as the simple, unforced drama "NightLights" makes clear, any hope for Erin to have a life outside their hermetic, monotonous existence — as in, a promising romance with a kindly coffee shop acquaintance (Jeff Garretson) — comes with questions regarding Jacob possibly too painful for her to address.
Ever mindful of the advocacy issue that ultimately drives their movie, director David Midell — described in the media notes as an autism therapist — and writers Nick Izzo and Adam Dick aren't out to blow you away with story unpredictability or filmmaking style. But neither are they amateurs at dramatic sincerity or complex emotion.
In the understated honesty that Waldron and the filmmakers bring to Erin's life as she moves through stages of fear, hope, selfishness and acceptance, "NightLights" achieves something admirably genuine about the queasy mixture of anguish and joy attached to caretaking for the most needy of loved ones.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle's Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times