“A Love Song” is a film of extraordinary stillness in a noisy world

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(4 stars)

If you’ve never been to some sort of silent meditation that lasts more than a few minutes – a Quaker meeting, a Vipassana weekend, a trial run to see if the cloistered lifestyle of a Carthusian monk is right for you – this is it. that it can feel like. The first three minutes are kind of fun, like playing the silent game in the back of the car before realizing it’s your parents’ way of shutting you up for a few minutes. The next 10 minutes feels like you could die if you don’t look at your phone. After 20 more minutes you sort of settle down. The sounds around you (because human beings are unable to be silent) become clearer and somehow more pleasant. Then your brain feels like it needs to both relax and work like it hasn’t in a long time. And for a little while, you bring that back into the noisy world.

The movie “A Love Song” is a bit like that. In a cinematic universe where Michael Bay and Zack Snyder seem to be battling to see who can damage the most eardrums, first-time writer and director Max Walker-Silverman has taken the opposite route. There’s sound, including a great soundtrack and great score, but there’s no noise. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a deep breath and a cold drink.

We meet Faye (Dale Dickey), a woman with enough wrinkles on her face to suggest her life hasn’t been easy, camping by a lake in Colorado. It’s not a spectacular landscape; the mountains are relatively small and the grass is dry. While Faye is alone, we don’t know if she is alone. The only thing we know for sure is that she’s been expecting a visit from Lito (Wes Studi), a friend she hasn’t seen in decades. We also know that her calendar is almost entirely blank until she writes “Today” on a randomly chosen Thursday.

When Lito arrives, the silence continues, but in a different way. There is no chatter, no unnecessary chatter. They sit down, play the guitar, eat ice cream. The minimalist dialogue means every action takes on a more meaningful intimacy. Watching them pitch a tent seems almost intrusive, because the moment is so special, so private.

Dickey and Studi, two veteran actors with credits longer than many careers, are so extraordinary that it’s hard to explain why and how good they are. They are absolute masters of their craft and Walker-Silverman wisely lets them do their job. In fact, if he had chosen to put those two in Faye’s trailer without a script, set up a few cameras, let them go grab a few beers, and come back to see the footage he got, he would have probably still gold in the hands. Instead, he works with them. He knows when a close-up establishes a relationship between the audience and the actor, and he knows when a wide shot does the same. Although Faye and Lito start out – and to a large extent remain – enigmas, we also feel like we know them on a raw level.

Like silent meditation, “A Love Song” isn’t for everyone. The film asks its audience to stand still and stay engaged. These are skills that many directors no longer appreciate, so these are skills that many moviegoers no longer possess. But for those who will put in the work, “A Love Song” is a special film that will stick with you long after the real-life clamor rushes around you.

PG. In neighborhood theatres. Contains mature thematic elements. 81 minutes.

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