This review originally ran on August 15, 2016, during the Sundance NEXT Fest
What we have here is an intimate drama about life, love, and dealing with life’s unpredictability.
After seeing “Lovesong” on the opening night of NEXT Fest, LA’s mini Sundance Film Festival, I now know why this little indie film has made the industry’s “Best of” lists. What we have here is an intimate drama about life, love, and dealing with unpredictability. “Lovesong” is a film whose strength comes from the quiet moments and commanding performances of leading ladies Riley Keough and Jena Malone.
Keough plays Sarah, a woman essentially living as a single mother since the relationship she has with her husband exists solely through grainy Skype chats. He travels a lot for work, leaving her alone to care for their 3-year-old daughter Jessie (phenomenally played by tiny tot Jessie Ok Gray). The time apart clearly has taken its toll on Sarah, who puts on a happy face around her daughter, but is hiding a world of pain inside. She feels alive again when her longtime friend Mindy (Malone) comes to town to visit. Escaping the boredom of home, Sarah packs up her car with Jessie in tow and, with Mindy by her side, the girls set out on an impromptu road trip that leads to unexpected truths. A combination of vulnerability, isolation, and a game of “Truth or Drink” leads to Sarah and Mindy discovering feelings that neither one of them expected as the lines blur between loving each other as friends vs being in love with each other.
“Lovesong” doesn’t have a stereotypical happy ending, but it doesn’t have a sad one either. I am especially impressed by how unapologetically realistic this film is, giving the audience very little, if any, backstory to the characters or their relationships; we only know what they are telling us, giving us no other perspective than their own. The trust that director So Yong Kim puts in her actors to convey her story pays off tenfold. It almost feels like we are watching a really gripping reality television show (and I mean this is in a good way), with ordinary people just trying to figure out their lives. There is no melodrama, no flare or theatrics, just one substantially powerful and honest film.
There is no melodrama, no flare or theatrics, just one substantially powerful and honest film.
There is so much to love aside from just the screenplay. Riley Keough is having a fantastic year and this further proves that she is not just a lucky girl who used her famous family to get into show business, she is the real deal. She has the ability to tap into deep emotional states, and watching her on the screen can only be described as seeing pure talent. The same praise should be given to Jena Malone, whose warmth radiates from the screen to our hearts. A mesmerizing soundtrack scored by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannson perfectly sets the mood, while singer-songwriter Shamir’s RnB 90’s poppy beat keeps the film light and airy.
Experiencing this intimate, personal growth through the character’s eyes makes “Lovesong” a true slice of life drama– despite the uncertainty of their future and anxiousness of the present moment, Sarah and Mindy are still able to find the beauty in simple moments. Not everything we want to happen in life will happen, and that’s ok, as evident by our protagonists. We’ve just got to keep on keepin’ on.