VOD film review: Lovesong
Script and direction8
Matthew Turner | On 11, Jul 2017
Director: So Yong Kim
Cast: Riley Keough, Jena Malone, Brooklyn Decker, Ryan Eggold, Rosanna Arquette
Watch Lovesong in the UK: Amazon Prime Video / Amazon Instant Video / Google Play
It might be just an unfortunate coincidence, but So Yong Kim’s Lovesong is the second film about an intimate female friendship to bypass cinemas and (following a straight-to-DVD release) turn up on Amazon Prime Video in four weeks, following last month’s A Date For Mad Mary. Although the two films are wildly different in tone, there is a significant thematic overlap and both are well worth seeking out, if you like your relationship dramas to be a little less conventional.
American Honey’s Riley Keough (she’s Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, you know) plays Sarah, a young mother, whose husband Dean (director Cary Joji Fukunaga in a Skype-only cameo) is frequently away on lengthy work trips. Feeling neglected, Sarah gets in touch with her free-spirited college friend, Mindy (Jena Malone), and the pair embark on an impromptu road trip in the Poconos with Sarah’s adorable three-year-old daughter, Jessie (Kim’s real-life daughter Jessie Ok Gray).
As Sarah and Mindy reconnect, it becomes clear that they have complex, yet unspoken, feelings for each other, but the trip comes to an abrupt end. Three years later, Sarah and Jessie (now played by Sky Ok Gray, Jessie’s older sister) head to Nashville to attend Mindy’s wedding to kind-hearted musician Leif (Ryan Eggold). But does Sarah have an ulterior motive?
Keough and Malone are both terrific in the lead roles; their friendship is instantly believable and their naturalistic interactions (whether it’s drink-fuelled, late-night conversations or playing around with Jessie) are entirely convincing. There is palpable chemistry between the pair, to the point where you find yourself taking a sharp intake of breath whenever they so much as look at each other.
Co-written with husband Bradley Rust Gray, Kim’s sensitive script paints a striking, intimate portrait of a relationship that’s suffused with confusion and possibility, all of which remains unspoken. Consequently, Kim’s understated direction weights every look, gesture and moment between the pair with an intensity that is deeply affecting, particularly in the film’s stand-out sequence, shot in a single take during the cycle of a ferris wheel.
Although initially jarring and frustrating, the film’s time-jump has a compelling effect, as the audience wonders just what, if anything, has changed in the intervening years, aside from obvious differences, such as Mindy’s now auburn hair. The script parcels out that information slowly, ratcheting up emotional tension, as we wait for the pair to get some time alone during the busy wedding preparations.
Throughout the film, Kim is adept at portraying the rush of unexpected and confusing emotion (a sequence set at a rodeo provides an early highlight), and that oscillation between tantalising possibility and crippling uncertainty lies at the heart of the film. Without revealing too much, it’s fair to say that heady atmosphere is where Kim’s primary concerns lie as a filmmaker, which may frustrate those seeking a more conventional narrative outcome.
There are plenty of additional pleasures, not least the idyllic cinematography in the film’s first half, accompanied by a suitably free-spirited score that seems to fit both characters. Similarly, while the film belongs to Keough and Malone, the two Gray sisters deliver utterly charming, natural child performances and there’s a brief but effective (and welcome) turn from Rosanna Arquette as Mindy’s possibly estranged mother.
Lovesong is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.