Seventeen-year-old Oldham writer and director Nicholas Connor has produced a poignant coming-of-age drama in Northern Lights, which truly tells the story through innocent eyes and is all the better for doing so.
Lamenting change through comparisons with the replacement of warm orange streetlights with their harsher counterparts, this 50-minute feature explores anxiety, love and loss from the perspective of its three youthful main characters.
Rob (Rhys Cadman) is secretly in love with best friend Emma (Katie Quinn), whose 10-year-old sister tries all she can to get them together as the two prepare to leave high school. This is not just a story of unrequited love, however, with the death of Emma’s mother hanging heavy over the plot, leaving her suffering from panic attacks and deeper troubles to go with the feelings of faded youth and the burden of the future.
The film has some truly moving moments and serves to showcase the talents of the up-and-coming actors, perhaps none more so than the precocious Megan Grady, who plays Emma’s young sister Mia and possesses an uncanny ability to move from comic to tragic moments in an instant.
The mundane is shown to have a nostalgic, beautiful quality through the considered cinematography, with the varied scenery that Greater Manchester offers creating a familiar warmth that is complemented by the clever northern dialogue.
This is further enhanced by the graceful ambient soundtrack that underpins the more contemplative moments in the film, chiefly provided by Bolton’s Some Kind Of Illness, who excel at conveying raw emotion through their understated celestial compositions.
The forgivable odd clumsy line or plot device does serve to remind of the tender years of the writer but, in the end, they take nothing away from this passionate depiction of youthful longing and trepidation in turbulent times.
Northern lights is due to be released on DVD and streaming services in the summer it was first shown at Manchester’s Lift-Off Film Festival, March 28.