Character-Driven Melodrama ‘Phantom Halo’ Doesn’t Have Believable Characters

Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Thomas Brodie-Sangster
Station 8 Films

Sleepy domestic-abuse/coming-of-age melodrama Phantom Halo never goes anywhere memorable because its two main characters don't consistently act like they're afraid of their big bad dad. Set in modern-day skid-row America, Antonia Bogdanovich's film follows brothers Samuel (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Beckett (Luke Kleintank) as they struggle to make enough money to run away from drunk dad Warren (Sebastian Roché).

Warren, a belligerent failed actor, is supposed to have an immense influence on Samuel and Beckett, but neither of Warren's sons seem that concerned with him. When Samuel, an ostensibly charismatic panhandler who earns money by performing Shakespearian soliloquies for spare change, fantasizes about comic books that Warren forbids him from reading, his daydreams of protecting the innocent "somewhere else" reveal nothing about Samuel's need to run away from home.

And Beckett, a stoic pickpocket who tries his hand at counterfeiting money, only seems concerned with Warren in the scene where Beckett admirably delivers a soliloquy to prove that he's just as talented as Samuel, Warren's favorite son.

By contrast, Samuel's impassioned, character-defining street-corner performances aren't nearly as enlightening as Beckett's brief presentation. Brodie-Sangster's rendition of speeches from Henry V only reveal his own Kenneth Branaghian tendency of over-stressing every other syllable. Brodie-Sangster clearly put a lot of effort into his mannered performance-within-a-performance, but his straining is wasted on a character whose ostentatious "acting" is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Phantom Halo
Directed by Antonia Bogdanovich
ARC Entertainment
Opens June 19, AMC Loews Village 7

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