She has a natural charm and straightforward honesty in all her performances that consistently transcend what's on the page. And even with "The Sideways Light"'s minuscule budget (it looks like one of those films made in borrowed houses owned by crew family members), what's on the page isn't easy to shake or disregard.
It was hard to resist comparing this film's real-life horror scenario involving the insidious disease Dementia with Mike Testin's contrived psycho horror show "Dementia" from 2015. "The Sideways Light" (despite the somewhat misleading trailer) doesn't rely on horror movie tropes for it's scares. Instead, it's Burdge coming home to babysit her spiraling grandmother (played with a frightening lucidity by Jeanne Evans) and having no idea what she's getting herself into.
Nana follows Lily (Burdge) around incessantly, alternating between jarring savant-like awareness and incoherent gibberish. She refuses to leave the house, thereby trapping her granddaughter with her to the point where Lily begins to fear for her own sanity. And that's basically it. Through it all Lily dives for normalcy by attempting to spark an affair with sexy barkeep Aiden (Matthew Newton) and her increasingly wheedling attempts to get relief from her brother Sam (Mark Reeb) who keeps pushing for the idea of simply putting Nana into a home.
But Lily can't do it, for a variety of reasons, and it's almost impossible to not put yourself in her shoes. This is due to mostly to the strength of the performances, yet Jennifer Harlow's direction is primarily the means by which the screws of psychological torture are tightened. It's a well-modulated, realistically paced thriller that's creepy for all too real reasons.
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