AGLIFF review – ‘Lovesong’

Riley Keough and Jena Malone in "Lovesong" (Sundance Institute)

                              Riley Keough and Jena Malone in “Lovesong” (Sundance Institute)

The fourth full-length feature from Korean-American director So Yong Kim (“Treeless Mountain”) had its world premiere earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. Her effortlessly natural approach to storytelling harkens back to 1990s independent film in a way that almost feels invasive.

Sarah (Riley Keough) is a young married mother who is essentially raising a 3-year-old child alone. Her husband travels for work and is gone so often that they barely interact. His interaction with the family exists strictly through Skype and occasional phone calls. It would be unfair to say that daily life is a burden, but a lack of adult communication has clearly taken its toll.

Mindy (Jena Malone) comes for a visit and the two women take a road trip with the kid in tow. Best friends in college, their lives are now worlds apart. There is an alcohol-fueled attempt at catching up on each other’s lives but something feels left unsaid between them. Kim captures a remarkable intimacy that feels like eavesdropping. There’s seemingly more revealed to us in stolen glances than in the dialogue.

One thing that “Lovesong” does that could have been a disaster is make a sharp pivot in the timeline. About halfway through the film, when it’s still fairly unclear where the story is heading, the picture fades up and we’re told it is three years later.

Sarah and a now 6-year-old Jessie are traveling to Nashville for Mindy’s wedding. Sarah and her husband have separated and when she arrives, there is nothing familiar except for Mindy’s face. The wedding party and extended family members are people that she doesn’t know. Amy Seimetz and Brooklyn Decker star as some of Mindy’s friends from her current life, something that Sarah hasn’t been a part of. As a child, Jessie jumps right in and adapts to her surroundings. Sarah, on the other hand, is really only happy when she’s around Mindy. Whenever the two of them are alone together, something is clearly unresolved and undefined.

And life is so often like that. Kim and her husband Bradley Rust Grey have written a story that might feel too real and not happy enough for some. I think it’s her strongest picture yet and proof that even with a small budget, the right casting decisions can take a project from good to great.

Accordingly, the production credits are incredibly top-notch. Award-winning Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (“Sicario,” “The Theory of Everything”) once again reunites with Kim after working on her last feature, “For Ellen,” and creates a beautiful score. Cinematography credits are split in two – the film’s carefully composed widescreen imagery handled in the first portion by Kat Westergard, while Guy Godfree takes on the softer second half in Nashville. Soundtrack cues are magnificently handled thanks to music supervisor Chris Swanson, founder of the Jagjaguwar and Secretly Canadian labels. As a result, many artists from that label group are featured including an electrifying bar scene set to Damien Jurado’s “Silver Timothy.”

“Lovesong” was the ‘Secret Screening’ at AGLIFF this year. The film has been picked up by Strand Releasing who are expected to put it out in April 2017. 


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