VOD film review: The Killing of Two Lovers
Ivan Radford | On 06, Jun 2021
Director: Robert Machoian
Cast: Chris Coy, Clayne Crawford, Sepideh Moafi, Avery Pizzuto
Where to watch The Killing of Two Lovers online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema / Virgin Movies / Sky Store / CHILI
A picture of a man standing silently in a bedroom has rarely been more chilling than in the opening scene of this unsettling film. Unfolding under the blunt shock of its title, it’s a tense, gripping study of a man struggling to come to terms with the breakdown of his marriage – a portrait of toxic masculinity in a poisonous environment.
David (Clayne Crawford) and Nikki (Sepideh Moafi) married young, high school sweethearts excited by the potential that lay ahead. Fast forward several years and while she’s enjoying a high-flying career as a lawyer, his dreams of musical stardom never materialised, leaving him working as a handyman in their small Utah town – and living with his dad, so that Nikki and their four kids can stay in the family house.
The couple are going through a trial separation, with an agreement that they can see other people, but it becomes painfully evident that only Nikki is doing that, with new boyfriend Derek (Chris Coy) in the frame. David, meanwhile, exists on the sidelines, ferrying the children from place to place – and while their three young sons may be getting on with things without many questions, older teen daughter Jesse (a superb Avery Pizzuto) knows exactly what’s going on. She resents her parents for not making things work, telling David about Derek to add to his torment.
It’s a dark cocktail of shame, bitterness and envy, and writer-director Robert Machoian dunks us in it with a large helping of ice. Machoian gradually stirs things up with a haunting precision, framing this situation in a 4:3 aspect ratio that compresses and compacts the tensions swirling beneath the surface. Moafi and Crawford are both excellent, with the latter a simmering snapshot of quietly brewing rage, inviting pity rather than sympathy.
Events don’t quite escalate, but they certainly intensify over the 85 sparse minutes, increasingly punctuated by a dissonant soundtrack of clangs and bangs that might be the backfiring of a car, the echo of an unseen gunshot or the foreshadowing of a outburst yet to come. It’s not a pleasant or easy watch, but it’s a riveting one that’s assembled with impressive craft – and leaves you wondering whether the title is a lament, a promise or a threat.