The seven residents of a small Northeastern town that we meet are all affected by the sudden death of school bus driver Mr. Peterson. No-nonsense, 60-year-old Louise (Kim Carlson) -- long married to the irascible Michael (a very good Angus Hepburn) -- dated Peterson in high school. Meanwhile, precocious youngster Shane (Tyler Mena), who lives with single, pregnant mom Ann (Kimberly Prentice), and teenagers-in-love Pru (a forthright Allyson Morgan) and Hunter (an adorable Davi Santos) were all Peterson's charges.
Shaken up by his death, these people begin to deal with some of their larger life issues. For example, Louise and Michael must not just face the challenges of increasing age and fragility, but finally discuss the death of their infant daughter 24 years ago; Ann, Shane, and Ann's new boyfriend Hess (Frank Mihelich) struggle with the concept of creating a new, blended family; and Pru becomes increasingly obsessed with determining the identity of the father who abandoned her as a child.
Not content to deal in depth with these serious issues, which are handled with sensitivity if a lack of originality, Flory throws a whole supernatural element into the mix: Michael hears things in his house's floorboards; Shane sees hundreds of albino butterflies by Peterson's burnt-up school bus, and Pru and Hunter encounter a dangerous wolf in the graveyard where they go to have a late-night adventure. These storylines never really amount to a whole lot -- thematically or otherwise -- and the fact that they can't be visualized in Misti B. Willis' bare-bones, one-set production severely undercuts their effectiveness. (Willis would also be wise to cut back on the excessive use of musical underscoring.) As a result, by the time Afterlight comes to its abrupt end at 80 minutes, both the characters and the audiences remain frustratingly in the dark.
-- Brian Scott Lipton