Four women of different ages and persuasions cross paths in haphazard patterns during a solar eclipse in Craig Macneill and Alexei Kaleina’s rustic tone poem “The Afterlight,” where cryptic images of ominous beauty, held together by pure surface tension, exert a strange fascination. Unlike Kelly Reichardt’s pastoral “Old Joy,” “Afterlight” proceeds without much discernible plot or character development, its objects and places exuding more backstory than its people, though Rip Torn as the father of the sole male protagonist lends a certain woodsy authenticity. Bowing Sept. 10 at Gotham’s Quad, the pic’s determinedly noncommercial, purely pictorial charms are dimmed by poor projection.
No “Steel Magnolias”-style celebration of regional femme bonding, “Afterlight” captures disconnected women — a bored city blonde, a young, blind basket-weaver, her careworn aunt and a preteen dairy farmer’s daughter — who register more as isolated mythic figures than intersecting characters, their occasional close encounters setting off instinctive hostility. Clandestinely exploring each other’s houses in crosscut primal invasions, the pic plumbs feminine mysteries beyond male ken, the eclipse’s fading light inching across the landscape as if nudged by fluxes of estrogen. Evocative HD photography suffers from a shoddy Beta-SP transfer.