Gotta say, after the wall-to-wall madness of 2021, it’s nice to settle back into the old typical peaks and valleys. Seriously, it’s kind of a relief to go back to a time when a “slow movie season” was an actual thing. Even more fortunate that the typical post-summer slump is happening at a time when my own show is ramping up. (Please make your tax-deductible donation through my fiscal sponsors at Fractured Atlas HINT HINT.)
So it is that this weekend’s big mainstream release is an action movie vehicle in which Idris Elba takes on a giant CGI lion. But wait! What’s this little indie film that’s crossed my desk?
A Love Song is the feature writing/directing debut of Max Walker-Silverman, though calling a 77-minute movie (82 minutes with credits) a “feature” is rather generous. That said, the film has such a languid pace that it certainly felt twice as long.
This is the story of Faye and Lito, respectively played by champion character actors Dale Dickey and Wes Studi. The two of them grew up together, but haven’t seen each other in over 50 years. Now that the both of them have lived long full lives and their respective spouses are both dead, they decide to reconnect. So it is that Faye drives her camper to a remote campground by a lake somewhere in the Colorado Mountains. She bides her time birdwatching and fishing for crawdads, unsure exactly when Lito will show up until he finally does half an hour in.
(Side note: A calendar helpfully shows us that the film takes place in September 2020. Gotta say, spending that particular month alone in a camper out in the middle of nowhere — with no media of any kind except a radio — sounds pretty darn good.)
What we’ve got here is a highly intimate and personal drama, in which two characters reminisce about long-gone times and half-forgotten memories. They barely even try to get each other caught up because there’s simply too much ground to cover. All the while, there’s this underlying question of whether Faye and Lito can or should try to pick up where they left off. How would it even be possible to strike up a romance like the previous 50 years didn’t happen?
There’s no getting around the fact that both of these characters have got many more years behind them than ahead of them. Why bother with any kind of romance when they won’t be active or alive for much longer? On the other hand, each of them is carrying around a lifetime of regret over all the things they didn’t do and didn’t say, so why add to that? Whatever time these two have left, would they rather spend it alone or together? If nothing else, at least they can cherish this brief period of time in which they can both go back to their happier teenage days.
Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a few of the other actors in this cast. We’ve got Michelle Wilson and Benja Thomas on hand as a vacationing couple struggling with the question of whether to get married. They’re primarily on hand to punctuate the main themes of the Faye/Lito plot, nicely giving Faye a chance to voice her own opinions on romance and regret just in time for the “climax”. The other main subplot concerns a gaggle of farmhands (the only one who speaks is a girl played by Marty Grace Dennis) — their main purpose is to have car troubles so that Faye is temporarily left without an engine block and thus unable to leave the campgrounds. It’s a long story.
The bottom line is that the supporting cast more or less serve their purposes as functional devices to make the plot and themes work. And the plot certainly needs the help, because it’s borderline non-existent as is.
This is a movie with aggressively limited dialogue. Likewise, anything that might be considered “action” is rare, understated, and far between. This is a movie all about interpersonal drama and internal conflicts, in which the primary sources of crisis or conflict are either boredom or indecisiveness. As a direct result, the vast majority of the film is comprised of landscape shots and long contemplative shots of the characters thinking. Lucky the landscape shots are so beautiful and our lead actors are such seasoned pros that they can hold a camera with the power of raw emotion.
There’s really not much else to say about A Love Song, because it’s such a short movie and so little happens within it. This is definitely one of those movies that would’ve left me in a frothing incoherent rage back when I first started blogging — ten years ago, I would’ve been screaming at this movie as I sat there slowly getting bored to death. Now an older and wiser film blogger, I can respect the film’s contemplative nature and deliberate pacing, with its thoughts on aging and regret. Even so, this is definitely a movie I respect much more than I like.
I have a hard time recommending this to all but the most devoted of indie arthouse cinephiles. It certainly doesn’t help that charging full ticket prices for less than 90 minutes of content is a big fucking ask. This is definitely one for home streaming. I had a rough time sitting through this one at my local arthouse, but if I could take my own time with this one and enjoy it in the comfort of my own home, that would be delightful.