REVIEW: Satellite of Love [2013]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 80 minutes | Release Date: March 5th, 2013 (USA)
Studio: FilmBuff
Director(s): Will James Moore
Writer(s): Jonathan Case & Will James Moore

“This is about friendship … and drinking”

Now this was a surprise. Knowing absolutely nothing about Satellite of Love before sitting down to watch it, an opening carnival scene with the trio of Samuel (Nathan Phillips), Blake (Zachary Knighton), and Catherine (Shannon Lucio) left me in a quizzical state of being. Spindrift‘s “Red Reflection” was playing its slow guitar against the camera’s snaking journey through an amusement park promenade towards the group converged at a One-Shot Wins basketball hoop. High on some form of illicit drugs, Cat hangs off Sam’s arm as they stumble to the Ferris wheel unknowing where their trip will take them once they leave the ground. A mess of smiles, pent-up anger, and a whole lot of love, she eventually moves to Blake’s side of the carriage and the complex relationship’s stage is set.

From here we fast-forward three years into a credit sequence depicting Sam at the front of an orchestra conducting his compositions before cutting to Cat and Blake slaving away at the restaurant he inherited from his dad. We have yet to really understand the ins and outs of their trinity but it’s not too difficult to infer once learning the chef and hostess are married and the artist sits abroad in Europe with a sad eye lingering on the “Save the Date” notice of their wedding he did not attend. These are glimpses into two very disparate lifestyles—the security of entrepreneurship and clientele versus a globetrotting nomad hopping city to city for new adventure. These are two lives Catherine had at her fingertips to choose from and Blake is where she settled.

The question remained, however, whether the word “settle” was more telling than its innocuously general terminology could express. Did she love Sam more? Was Blake her safe assurance for stability and a family? Was regret piling up inside her gut as she watched her new life flitter away at the front of a gourmet restaurant from open to close instead of in her husband’s arms for relaxation? It’s fate that brings the subject of whether or not they should sell the restaurant and commence a new life away from the shackles of responsibility and ancestral duties at the exact same time Sam returns to pay amends for his absence at their auspicious day. He arrives bearing the gift of a holiday at his friend’s Napi Vineyards just when they needed an escape.

More than vacation from the strains of work, this little sojourn carries a hopeful, cathartic reunion for the three to air their emotions and accept the decision Cat made to lead her towards marrying her boyfriend’s best mate. She had the best of both worlds and they knew it; the three shared a bond that could never be broken by time or distance or any piece of government issued paper. It was their ideal of love that separated them—Cat and Blake saw monogamy as the answer to happiness while Sam was okay to share. His vagabond still moved country to country bedding new women he loved but felt no remorse for leaving because he believed “the one” was waiting. To him this retreat was in part an opportunity to see if he let Cat go too soon.

Directed by Will James Moore with co-writing duties to Jonathan Case, Satellite of Love is a complex encapsulation of the three things their characters often find themselves conversing about: life, love, and loyalty. We don’t know anything about what once was three years previous besides a Ferris wheel ride that may have cemented their positions with each other today. All we have is the way in which they interact now that the time of free love and bohemian lifestyle is no longer the creed by which they all still live. This week of wine, bicycling, and dance will be one to test whether their bond has remained strong, whether it can hold them together despite their new arrangement, or to prove the two who paired off weren’t the ones who should have.

Adding to the fun is the newest woman in Sam’s life—Janina Gavankar‘s Michelle—who may in fact be the one he was destined for and evidence Cat and Blake’s union was meant to be. A fourth creature full to the brim by sensuality, she turns their trio into a quartet of good times, great wine, and unbridled love. But while she and Sam wax on about being far removed from the periods of their lives set aside for settling down, we can tell the connection between them is stronger than the words they speak. And as each frame advances towards the inevitable misstep foreshadowed by a thick sexual tension brewing beneath the surface, we begin to understand each character’s motivations and ability to forgive, forget, love, and be loved.

Theirs is an idyllic holiday shown in gorgeous montage against songs like Sanders Bohlke‘s “The Weight of Us” filtered through washed out sun flaring and the translucency of water. Whether or not the relationships at the start of their journey stay intact by its end doesn’t matter as we learn everything that occurs is merely one more step on the thousand mile pilgrimage we all set off on the moment we realize solitude isn’t enough. With heart-wrenching performances of authentic emotion and purity of soul that transcend societal constraints for the heart’s desire, Satellite of Love is a microcosm of our contemporary world’s myriad interpretations on the subject. Through them we see that every end brings with it a new beginning and that love is an evolving creature too intricate for black and white definition.

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