There are moments in director David Midell's NightLights that play like PSAs, but that earnestness is paved over by wonderfully affecting performances. Twenty-something Erin (Shawna Waldron) is the sole caretaker of her autistic twin brother, Jacob (Stephen Louis Grush). It's a wholly consuming responsibility, and Erin has put her dreams of being a painter on the back burner, seemingly forever, to meet it. But in quick succession Nicole (Kate Black-Spence), a bubbly new neighbor, moves in upstairs, and an attractive man shows romantic interest in Erin --related events that rupture her vision of her life.
Eventually, a freak accident makes her realize that her good intentions may actually be holding Jacob back, forcing her to make a potentially wrenching decision. There are huge gaps in the script; we never know what Nicole does for a living or why she's always on call to help Erin, so she's more a plot device than a real character. We're never told just how Erin is able to support herself and Jacob in their sprawling apartment. But Waldron, who looks a bit like Annabella Sciora, gives a moving performance, conveying Erin's deep love, exhaustion, and determination, while Grush is almost flawless as Jacob, sidestepping tics and gimmicks to instead show the complex, layered man beyond the diagnosis.