Movie Review (Sundance 2022): ‘A Love Song’ is Short, Simple and Sweet, Almost to a Fault
Director: Max Walker-Silverman
Writer: Max Walker-Silverman
Starring: Dale Dickey, Wes Studi
Synopsis: After unhitching her camper at a lakeside in the mountains, Faye finds her rhythm cooking meals, retrieving crawfish from a trap, and scanning her old box radio for a station. She looks expectantly at the approach of a car or the mailman, explaining to neighboring campers that she’s waiting for a childhood sweetheart she hasn’t seen in decades. When he does arrive, Lito and Faye, both widowed, spend an evening reminiscing about their lives, losses, and loneliness.
It does not take long into A Love Song for director Max Walker-Silverman to create a warm and cozy atmosphere. The location is gorgeous alongside the lake and the dark nights and lit fires help bring the viewer into the scene, gathering around the campfire. There is a real sense of community built into the foundation of this film, in which Wes Studi’s Faye is seen mingling with the other campers in her area, talking about life and death and all things love. Everyone in this film is open and honest, which helps the audience feel like they have known these characters for years.
Of course, the main plot of the story revolves around the interactions between Faye and her childhood sweetheart Lito, played by Dale Dickey. His screen time is shorter than may be expected, but it helps support the role that he is in as someone who comes in to rekindle his love with Faye. Dickey is able to add a lot of emotional weight to the film with his presence, and he and Studi have great chemistry together which helps sell their connection together authentically.
The structure and presentation of A Love Song is very simple, only staying at the campsite for what is basically the entirety of the film. There are only a handful of characters and there is very little action that takes place. Instead, this film focuses on the dialogue and atmosphere, creating what feels like a warm, comforting hug that is familiar but needed. Sometimes, all that a film needs to do is to be pleasant and to remind the audience about the power of love and rekindling old friendships.
There are many small moments that, while not adding much to the narrative, help add to the tone of the film and are just endearing to watch. From making ice-cream cones to singing and playing guitar, these small moments are something the viewer gets to watch as they witness one night with these two people. It is small, personal, and intimate; yet in these moments it works incredibly well. These small moments are paired together with the use of a toned-down colour gradient and cinematography that helps capture these beautiful landscapes to help immerse the audience further.
For those who are looking simply to escape for a few hours and be taken away on this journey with Faye and Lito, the simple presentation may just be all that they need to connect with the story. However, there may also be a fault with how simple and short this story is. The film is short, clocking in at only 81 minutes, and it would have been nice to get to spend more time with these characters and add more depth to some of the subplots throughout the film. Faye interacts with several other characters in the campsite and it seems like it is only there to flesh out time while she is waiting for Lito, and it would have been great to get more development here. The most emotional storyline that felt like it had a lot of weight to it actually came from a subplot involving a family wanting to dig under Faye’s campervan and it would have come to a more satisfying conclusion if we got more of that story within the film.
A Love Song does what it says on the tin and presents a film that is stripped back and honest. For his first feature film, Max Walker-Silverman shows a lot of strength in capturing tone, heart, and using key filmmaking techniques such as cinematography and color grading to help elevate what is a simple and pleasing script. I am certainly excited to see what he goes onto in the future and how he will continue to push outside of his limits.