Review: ‘Lovesong’ at Aspen Filmfest
Director So Yong Kim’s daringly restrained “Lovesong,” which screened Friday night at the Aspen Filmfest, explores an unspoken and undefined love between two young women in a tense cinematic slow-burn character study.
Quiet, patient and scarcely plotted, the indie drama is propelled by the emotional tension between old friends played in sensitively calibrated performances by Riley Keough and Jena Malone.
Keough plays a young stay-at-home mom, Sarah, stifled by a life of quiet desperation. Neglected by an absent, workaholic husband, she sleepwalks through the days with her daughter. Her childhood bestie, Mindy (Malone) comes for a visit to rekindle their friendship, drink a little too much and cheer Sarah up for a few days. Free-spirited and single — also impulsive and a hint self-involved — Mindy brings a spark back into Sarah’s life. They go for a road trip with Sarah’s daughter and they hit a rodeo and a fair, where the pair share an intense moment on a Ferris wheel that first suggests their love may be more than platonic.
After Mindy leaves abruptly, we flash forward three years to her wedding in Nashville, Tennessee. The friends haven’t stayed in touch, and Sarah’s been snubbed out of the bridal party (the crude maid of honor is played by Brooklyn Decker in a crackling supporting performance). But Sarah steps up to help out with the festivities anyway, even making an airport run to pickup Mindy’s odious mother (Rosanna Arquette with a gem of a cameo).
Mom cruelly asks why her daughter is getting married at all. But, to the viewer and to Sarah, it’s a fair question. Sweet as her husband-to-be seems, we don’t quite know what she wants, or the nature of her desires — we wonder if Mindy knows, either. Which is kind of the point in “Lovesong,” which is unafraid of its characters’ blurred emotional lines and ambiguity. The film proved to be a fittingly minimalist companion to Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women,” which opened Filmfest on Wednesday night.
Amid the falderal of wedding preparations, Sarah and Mindy fumble with attempts to connect and rekindle their relationship — whatever each of them thinks it is or ought to be. Kim has a delicate touch as a filmmaker, allowing Keogh and Malone to illuminate the complex inner lives of their characters with subtle grace and without histrionics or a weepy climactic confrontation. Yet their final moments together — awash in unspoken pain and pent-up longing — will still break your heart.
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