Love Song: NZIFF Review
The Girlfriend Experience star Riley Keough and Jena Malone take centre stage in this moving and quieter piece about female friendship.
Former college friends Sarah and Mindy have not seen each other for years. Keough's Sarah is estranged from her partner and struggling to cope with their child growing up. When Malone's Mindy comes to stay, an emotional whirlwind that is actually needed in Sarah's life.
With her carefree attitude and desire to shake Sarah out of the funk, the pair freewheel (with a kid in tow) and have fun. But as quickly as she came, Mindy is gone, leaving Sarah aflutter and something stirred up deep within after neglect from her husband and years of friendship.
Until 3 years later, when Sarah's invited to Mindy's wedding...
Director So Yong Kim's created a subtle film that may have a sedentary start that revels in its intimacies, but it's all the better for it as it builds time to pull the lyrical nature of this friendship together.
Keough has a presence that's magnetic and a style that says so much with so little; in terms of her facials, her less is more approach pays off immensely as this restrained tale plays out. But equally, Malone's joie de vivre and signal sending vitality adds much to the proceedings as well, which border on the ambiguous throughout and work all the better for it.
Dividing the film into two distinct parts helps immeasurably to continue proceedings and the addition of extra people to the cast give it a propulsion which is needed. But it does rob proceedings of the nature of the relationship of the pair that we've become so invested in. And the stakes feel a little more contrived and difficult to invest in in the second part of the film.
Perhaps it's So Yong Kim's comment on how life divides us and how complications ensue and abound while we're not looking.
While the observational almost detached tone can take a little getting used to, the honesty of the bond and the veracity of what's being explored on screen is as deep as you'd expect.
A final sequence leaves wondering whether tears shed are of regret or of joy and that's one of Love Song's true successes; thanks to its innate authenticity and its smartly observed intimate moments, this quiet film speaks at volume for the pair. Its minimalism pays off but only if you're willing to let the more lyrical edges wash over you and concentrate on the quite stunning turns delivered by Riley Keough and Jena Malone.