Waiting for the Light to Change

Directed by: Linh Tran
Distributed by: Freestyle Digital Media

Written by Michael Clawson


“I just feel, like, really stuck right now, and empty.” In “Waiting for the Light to Change,” this is said by a young man named Jay, who has recently lost his father, but it could just as easily have been said by any of the other dispirited, directionless twenty-somethings that the film portrays. The group of friends that this plaintive drama follows are all grappling with the ennui of early adulthood, when their adolescent hopes for the future dissipate amid the realization that life is not what they thought it’d be by that point. Unfolding over a week’s time at a lakeside cottage where the friend group is having a reunion of sorts, “Waiting” is a resonant debut from director Linh Tran.

Alongside Jay, there is Amy, Kim, Lin, and Alex. Amy (Jin Park) is the focal point: she and Jay are long-time platonic friends, reconnecting on the trip after time spent in different states. Jay is dating Lin, Amy’s good friend from childhood, which causes more heartbreak for Amy than she lets on. Amy has long held an affection for Jay, but self-consciousness, especially prior to a significant weight loss, has deterred her from opening up to him. Kim is Lin’s cousin, who’s grieving a breakup, and Alex is Jay’s friend, who’s new to the group and attracted to Amy.

The group dynamics and character distinctions emerge naturally as the crew spends their time mostly on the beach outside their cottage, with some leisurely walks through nearby grassy fields. The weather is chilly: everyone is bundled up in sweaters as they sit in the sand and melancholically reflect on their discontent. There’s awkwardness, hookups, and drunken hangouts, all captured through long takes and deliberate camerawork that conjures a collective sense of emotional stagnation. The sadness that weighs on the film never lifts, but it doesn’t overburden the film either.

The rhythm falters slightly when Tran eventually shakes up her stylistic choices. Much of “Waiting” is serenely minimalistic, with visual framing that vaguely echoes the shooting style of Hong Sang-soo. Tran makes a few bolder gestures in the film’s second half, which are more jarring than moving. But after regaining its footing, “Waiting” finishes on a poignantly inconclusive note, with all of its musings on relationships, friendships, careers, and happiness left unresolved. The film doesn’t offer any answers to how to best turn the page between life’s chapters, but it authentically captures the challenges in doing so.

“Waiting for the Light to Change” Trailer

Michael Clawson is a member of the Seattle Film Critic Society you can follow his passion for film on Letterboxd.

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