We've all been there. Unless you have yet to start dating or have been exceptionally lucky in love, every single one of us have had our hearts broken. And in Brightest Star, the Maggie Kiley directed romantic drama about The Boy who loses The Girl, we discover what can stem from heartbreak. The film centers around a twenty-something student (Chris Lowell) who falls hard and fast for career-motivated Charlotte (Rose McIver), only to be dumped by the love of his life, seemingly because he is without direction or purpose. Bustle sat down with Lowell to talk about the grown-up coming-of-age tale.
"It's part of growing up — being vulnerable enough to fall in love with someone and than having to be crushed from real heartbreak," Lowell said. "Really it's not the pain of the heartache that's so important, it's learning how to stand back up, and dust yourself off and keep moving forward. That's one of the most integral parts of being a human being is learning to strive beyond obstacles."
For Lowell's character, who goes nameless as "The Boy", it is his breakup that is the catalyst for propelling him towards self-growth. "Whoever that person is in our lives that shakes us to our core the way that Charlotte does with my character, those people keep coming back in our lives whether we want them to or not. They're always there, they linger. It's the first scar on your heart."
And as he begins his journey into the abyss that is every 20-somethings plethora of choices, he realizes that what he wants to do, and what he's good at doing, are two entirely separate things. As Lowell puts it: "The joy and the plight of people our age, in this generation, is that we have so many freedoms. You can do anything you want, so... what are you gonna do?" he asked. "My parent's generation, my grandparent's generation, they didn't have that luxury. They had to make up their mind and stick with it. Life was too short."
Fortunately, for Lowell, he always knew he wanted to be an actor, even while his pint-sized peers were dreaming of becoming NBA all stars. "I remember when I was in kindergarden and the teacher asking us the kids, 'What do you want to be when you grow up? An astronaut? Firefighter? Teacher? Veterinarian?' And I remember thinking 'If I'm an actor, I can be a veterinarian and a doctor and a...' It's something that I've always coveted, that I knew so early on that this is what I wanted to do."
And in Brightest Star, our male lead is constantly struggling with making choices that will either please his ex in the hopes of winning her back (climbing the corporate ladder at a 9 to 5), or following his genuine interests. "This idea of self-acceptance vs. self-progress is a big theme in the film," Lowell said. "Rather than trying to better oneself... it's more important to accept oneself. Before he can make anybody else happy he needs to be happy with who he is."
And on his road to find happiness he stumbles upon Allison Janney's character working at an observatory. Janney portrays the archetypal mentor, showing Lowell's character a different path — following a career and not chasing love — than the one he's currently on. "He's been making every sacrifice with the hopes that it will win someone over, and thinking that it's the right direction to go. Allison is someone who focuses just on her work, and because she's seen the results of her actions, she has a lot to offer him," said Lowell. (He also fangirl'ed over getting to work with Janney in the first place: "Im such a frickin huge fan of hers. She's just a great human being. I was just so over the moon when I found out she was going to do the film," he added.)
But what makes this film different than most romantic flicks you'll see in theatres this year, is its short running time. While the average Hollywood film is being pushed to a whopping two hours (more bang for your buck, perhaps) Brightest Star's motto is quality over quantity, coming in at just 80 minutes.
"I think it's a brave thing and a good sign of a filmmaker to only tell the story that needs to be told and nothing more," he said. I made a film with the same producers as Brightest Star and it's also 80 minutes. There are a lot of directors who make a three hour movie and every minute is pivotal and necessary. But then there's also probably the majority of directors who are so obsessed with their own voice that they want to keep everything in. I learned early on that the most important thing to do is to serve the story and not my own ego."
While Lowell is busy writing, directing and starring in films, he found time to say hello to an old friend. "Veronica Mars was like going home for Christmas," said Lowell of working on the Veronica Mars movie, where Lowell reprised his role as Piz, one of Veronica's leading love interests. "I worked with these guys years ago, and we've all stayed friends, but to have an excuse to get us all back together was one we were all so hoping for."
And that iconic Piz haircut, will that, too, be back for the reunion? "Oh my god, thank god I didn't have that hair. That was like priority number one, get a fucking haircut."
Brightest Star is in theatres now. You can also catch Lowell on FOX's Enlisted Fridays at 9 pm.
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