Dale Dickey and Wes Studi mesmerize in the minimalist feature debut of Max Walker-Silverman who is the son of Rick Silverman from Telluride…
Review by Kristen Page-Kirby
August 2, 2022
If you’ve never been to any kind of silent meditation that lasts more than a few minutes — a Quaker meeting, a Vipassana weekend, a tryout to see if the cloistered lifestyle of a Carthusian monk is right for you — here’s what it can feel like. The first three minutes are kind of fun, like playing the quiet game in the back of the car before you realize it’s a way for your parents to get you to shut up for a few minutes. The next 10 minutes feel like you might die if you don’t look at your phone. After 20 more, you kind of settle in. The sounds around you (because human beings are incapable of actually being silent) get sharper and somehow more lovely. Afterward, your brain feels like it got to both relax and work in a way it hasn’t in a long time. And for a little while, you carry that back into the noisy world.
The movie “A Love Song” is kind of like that. In a filmmaking universe where Michael Bay and Zack Snyder seem to be in a battle to see who can damage more eardrums, first-time feature writer and director Max Walker-Silverman has taken the opposite tack. There is sound, including an excellent soundtrack and score, but there is no noise. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a deep breath and a cool drink.
We meet Faye (Dale Dickey), a woman with enough lines on her face to suggest her life hasn’t been an easy one, 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’re not sure if she’s lonely. The one thing we are sure of is that she’s expecting a visit from Lito (Wes Studi), a friend she hasn’t seen in decades. We also know her calendar is almost entirely blank until she writes “Today” on a Thursday she chose at random.
When Lito arrives, the silence continues, but in a different way. There is no small talk, no idle chatter. They sit, they play their guitars, they eat ice cream. The minimalistic dialogue means every action takes on a more significant intimacy. Watching them put up a tent feels almost intrusive, because the moment is so special, so private.
Dickey and Studi, both veteran actors with credits longer than many careers, are extraordinary to the point that it’s hard to articulate why and just how good they are. They are utter masters of their craft, and Walker-Silverman wisely lets them do their thing. In fact, if he had elected to put these two into Faye’s trailer with no script, mount a few cameras, leave them to go have a few beers and return to see what footage he got, he would probably still have gold on his hands. Instead, he works with them. He knows when a close-up builds a relationship between audience and actor, and he knows when a wide shot does the same thing. Though both Faye and Lito start out — and, to a large degree, remain — enigmas, we also feel we know them on some raw level.
Like silent meditation, “A Love Song” isn’t for everyone. The movie requires its audience to both remain still and stay engaged. Those are skills many directors no longer value, so they’re skills many moviegoers no longer possess. But for those who will do the work, “A Love Song” is a special film that will stay with you long after the clamor of real life rushes back in around you.
PG. At area theaters. Contains mature thematic elements. 81 minutes.