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The Other Side of Darkness
Stars: Maggie Callahan, Olivia Billings, Drake Tobias, Scott Davis, Douglas Esper and Brett Voina
Director/Scriptwriter Adam Deierling
Composer: Niklas Wempe
Cinematography: Vinny Sisson
Villager Pictures/Saturn EntertainmentRating: PG 13
Running Length: 118 Minutes

During 2022 and going into 2023, there has been much publicity about attacks on power stations around the USA. Enter the film,  “The Other Side of Darkness,” by Adam Deierling. It has these events as part of a storyline including foster care and finding one’s own roots. Most of the story is set in West Virginia with its beautiful rolling hills and traveled in the story by three teens in an open-top Jeep. However, trouble lurks around every corner.

The story begins in a small town and almost-sixteen-year-old TJ (Maggie Callahan) who works in her foster parent's car garage. Richard (Douglas Espen) is not the ideal foster Dad, in fact, the opposite. TJ  knows her way around a car engine, but is not appreciated by guys who work there.  There is a special 16th birthday, a mysterious package, keys to a storage garage, and….an open top Jeep. By the time fingers are snapped, TJ is on the way to find out who sent her the key to the storage place. Along with her are close friends, Hannah (Olivia Billings who steals her scenes) and Patrick, her brother (Drake Tobias.) The group eventually finds the person, who turns out to be TJ’s grandfather, (Scott Davis) and a person living with him, Raymond (Brett Voina.) All is well in the beautiful countryside. TJ learns about her late mother and hears her mother’s recorded music.  versations are overheard, and soon the teens begin to realize they are in trouble. If you have to cross a wooden swing bridge that goes over rapids from a small river, you know there will be problems. This is a story with twists.

Vinny Sisson’s camera work is well done, and combined with director Adam Deierling's drone.  They go with the motor vehicles on the road as though the audience was there, too. Along with the camera work, composer Niklas Wempe has a soundtrack that is pleasantly moving and carries you along with the Jeep.  If you listen closely, you will hear a hint of John Denver.

Maggie Cannon, as TJ, has the center role and carries it well, though a bit stiff at times.  Olivia Billings as her friend, Hannah, has flexibility in her acting. Scott Davis as Grandpa gives a stoic performance, while Douglas Esper as the foster father shows temper, as does Brett Voina as the mysterious Raymond. It is the gentleness of Drake Tobias as Patrick, the older brother, who is the calming effect. You wonder, though, who insured the Jeep that sixteen-year-old  TJ drives into West Virginia. In fact, she does most of the driving here.

Having a teen trying-to-find-roots story and going along with people who destroy power grids is a different approach. Teens are a great part of the story while the bad guys get the rest of it. How susceptible our country is to an attack of this sort is evident here and the bad guys can cover their tracks well. That said, parents who wonder where their teens are and can’t reach them by phone could discover they are exploring caves in West Virginia. One never knows.

Copyright 2023 Marie Asner