Review: Claudia Myers’ Above the Shadows

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The idea was executed more accurately in a season one episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” but writer/director Claudia Myers’ take on becoming invisible panders to a more romantically-charged audience. Have you ever felt invisible; unseen by your family, friends, neighbors and work/school associates? What are the psychological effects of feeling alone, vulnerable and worthless? Holly (Olivia Thirlby) tackles these themes shortly after the death of her mother; just before she becomes unseen to the naked eye by everyone she knows. When she’s older, she puts this unwanted ability to use as a sleazy tabloid photographer. Since the celebrities cannot see her, she’s able to get the right shot without being detected. The scheme is going well until she bumps into disgraced MMA fighter Shayne (Alan Ritchson) and finds that he is the first human to see her in nearly a decade.

Together, Holly and Shayne work together to rebuild his life while trying to get through to her that she’s not as hopeless as she feels. When the pair begin to fall for each other, a wrench is thrown into Holly’s latest scheme and neither party is prepared to deal with the consequences. Co-starring alongside Olivia Thirlby (Juno, Dredd) and Alan Ritchson (Hunger Games, TMNT) is Megan Fox (Jennifer’s Body, Transformers), Maria Dizzia, Jim Gaffigan, David Johansen and Justine Cotsonas. Above the Shadows also features appearances from UFC Hall of Famer and former Light Weight Champion Tito Ortiz, UFC and Bellator fighter Jay Hieron and World Champion in Light Contact Kickboxing Thomas Canestraro. Above the Shadows is currently available on DVD and VOD courtesy of Gravitas Ventures, and here’s what I have to say after my viewing.

Although I’m not sure how this title would have been marketed to a wide audience, I’m still surprised to see Above the Shadows receiving a home media only release. Shot by Myriad Pictures and produced by Rob Baunoch, Khris Baxter, Mark Schacknies, Tara Sickmeier and co-producer JG Hoover, Above the Shadows easily could have fit in with a limited release in theaters followed by a television debut on Lifetime, Showtime or HBO. There was a lot of talent in front of and behind the camera to be dumped straight-to-DVD and that’s a testament to Claudia Myers more than anyone else. While cinematographer Eric Robbins and editor Kathryn Schubert surely helped her in creating this romance-drama, Claudia cleverly steered the ship away from any truly disastrous love story troupes that could have locked this flick into an early submission.

Holly’s “power” is almost comical when you look at it from a cinematic standpoint. She’s literally ignored for no reason until she disappears from sight and mind, yet she’s able to collect a check, pay rent and live her life through other means of communication. Being invisible also comes with its freedom, too, to not care what you look like, to not care what other people think of you and to get brunt honesty out of people when they know you’re “not around.” Being invisible is as lonely and freeing as you can imagine, and it’s a delicate dance that’s soon interrupted by the charming, athletic and charismatic MMA fighter Shayne. He’s hot (like really hot), talented and still has adoring fans even though he’s facing a major scandal stemming from one of Holly’s previous sneak photos. Shayne is everything Holly is not; they’re polar opposites in every sense of the word, and that’s why they’re perfect to help each other grow and evolve.

Shayne isn’t Mr. Perfect, either, which makes him the tragic hero we need and deserve. He lost his girlfriend, Juliana (Megan Fox), because he was a cheater and followed up that dismissal with a losing streak in MMA. He wants to get back with Juliana, but his downward spiral is in full effect until he meets Holly. What’s interesting about Shayne’s character-type is that he too feels invisible while being in the public eye. People care about his looks, his performance and not what he has to offer as an individual. And, he might be a little crazy since he enters into a one night stand with a girl who’s seemingly invisible. Talk about baggage. Shayne gets back into the limelight through a series of underground fights and amateur bouts ran by gangsters and even gets his girl back, but is that the outcome he wanted all along? Or is Holly the trophy he’s been looking for? You’ll have to watch Above the Shadows to find out.

Considering this is a contact sport website, I need to address the MMA fights – or lack thereof. There’s a handful of fights, probably about three or four, but they’re not a full battle due to time constraints. They are expertly choreographed and look realistic, but we never get the whole thing, which takes some of the thrill out of the parts you’re looking forward to the most as an MMA fan. Throw in a predictable ending and Above the Shadows is an average romance-drama that appeals to two very different demographics. It doesn’t have enough grit to keep sports fans on the edge of their seats and yet it’s nimble enough to serve as a great date night movie that won’t completely bore you to tears. And, hey, any film with Megan Fox in it deserves a watch because she’s incredibly underrated and overlooked due to her comments on a popular director she clashed with. Watch the trailer below and decide if this is the movie for you. Although, I’m warning you it’s well-produced to the point that it hides the cheese admirably.

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