REVIEW: A Love Song [2022]

Rating: 8 out of 10.
  • Rating: PG | Runtime: 81 minutes
    Release Date: July 29th, 2022 (USA)
    Studio: Stage 6 Films / Bleecker Street Media
    Director(s): Max Walker-Silverman
    Writer(s): Max Walker-Silverman

Fair point.

It’s not every day that you get a PG film for adults, but that’s exactly what writer/director Max Walker-Silverman delivers with his bittersweetly joyous feature debut A Love Song. Captured on campsite seven along Turquoise Lake with Mount Elbert as a backdrop, the story concerns a widow named Faye (Dale Dickey) waiting on an old friend from yesteryear. She wrote to Lito (Wes Studi) seven years after the death of her husband (he’s a widower himself) despite not having seen each other in decades. He wrote back saying he’d drive his silver car and black dog out to meet her and she set #7 as the place. And thus, she waits, anxious and excited about every knock on her trailer door in the hopes it’ll finally be him.

With a simple premise and game leading actor to portray the delicate anticipation and frustration of waiting an unspecified amount of time, the movie progresses with a wonderful sense of comfort in the unknown. Faye spins the dial on her radio to hit what always proves the perfect song for the moment in between checking her lobster trap for her daily meals. She holds her breath whenever the camp’s postman (John Way‘s Sam) passes by, offering a cup of coffee as he leafs through the letters to see if Lito has written with an update. And she makes new acquaintances in a vacationing couple (Michelle Wilson‘s Jan and Benja K. Thomas‘ Marie) and quintet of cowhands led by their youngest member (Marty Grace Dennis‘ Dice) seeking a favor.

There’s humor in the routine whether Sam’s smile knowing he’ll have a letter soon enough or Dice’s brothers huddling to discuss her next request so as not to actually speak with Faye themselves. The dialogue is cyclical and repetitive in many instances to lend a poetic rhythm to the whole, each act a meticulously composed sequence that maintains the suspense of Lito’s arrival while cultivating a playful air of warmth as well. And through it all is love—Jan’s unfinished business to ask Marie for her hand in marriage, Dice’s desire to unearth her buried father and move the body somewhere more serene now that an oil pump graces the skyline, and Faye’s memory for both her husband and the friend she wishes might still somehow know her.

You could call the opening act a comedy of absurdist errors, each wrinkle in an otherwise determined road leaving Faye with a grin. She’s cautiously optimistic, but the fear to flee grows the longer she’s left alone. Fate must therefore intervene at times, its actions humorous in nature too so that we are prepared for the inevitable awkwardness of hers and Lito’s expectation-filled reunion. It’s as clumsy as it is cutely endearing—both characters struggling to find the words to disarm their trepidation or proclaim their desire for intimacy without knowing if they’d be pushing too hard since neither has spoken aloud their ambitions for the rendezvous. So, they mostly talk about the past. Old schoolmates. Family. Their former spouses. Each prolonged icebreaker leading towards an overdue kiss.

What you must understand, however, is that this is Faye’s story. She’s who we meet on-screen at the start and who we leave on-screen at the end. It’s also not a fairy tale. When I say it’s a PG film for adults, I mean it insofar as the complexity that defines love as a concept beyond romantic unions. Faye mentions how she never knew what love was until she found her husband (a truth that makes the many synopses I read saying she and Lito are “old flames” misleading since they were really good friends who never quite acted on their feelings, if such feelings existed, beyond a solitary event). She follows that up saying how shocking it was to realize she could forget once he was gone.

Whether these two will suddenly ignite an affair is thus inconsequential to the spirit of what Walker-Silverman has created. It’s less about Faye and Lito falling for each other and getting married than it is the potential for such a thing to happened so many years after it didn’t in the more traditional timeframe of youth. It’s about healing—remembering what was lost but also accepting that looking to fill the void isn’t a disservice to those who are gone. The fact that Faye wrote to Lito and allows herself the opportunity to desire what his meeting her might bring is the profound miracle here. That refusal to live with regret pushes her away from the pain long enough to numb it and try and love herself again.

And Lito provides that chance whether ultimately acting upon it or chickening out. To answer her call is to remind her she matters. To see her now as worthy of the attention puts her in a place we can’t know how long has passed since she was last there. She’s still shy. She doesn’t want her photo taken, doesn’t know what to tell Jan when asked if marriage is worth it, and doesn’t know if she should invite Lito to ditch his tent and sleep in her bed. Despite their age, Dickey and Studi are like teenagers here—innocent, nervous, distractable. Their flirtations are half-baked (I love Lito trying to muscle his way through playing a song on the guitar despite constant mistakes), their confidence shaky at best.

What’s purer and more authentic than that? What’s more indelibly romantic than a tentative affection born out of distance and memory after already having lived what will be their greatest love? Walker-Silverman has distilled the emotions and anxieties of a sixty-year-old woman’s rebirth down to a brisk eighty-minute tale that resonates with a universal lyricism against the rural west’s peaceful expanse. It’s taken Faye seven years to reenter the world removed from who she and her husband were for so long. And if Lito didn’t show up, she may have retreated for even longer. That he did, though, proves she’s ready to push forward. She’s ready to cherish what she had while still allowing herself the room for new experiences that will prove hers alone. It’s absolutely exhilarating.

[1] Wes Studi (left) and Dale Dickey (right) in A LOVE SONG Credit: Bleecker Street
[2] Dale Dickey in A LOVE SONG Credit: Bleecker Street
[3] Wes Studi in A LOVE SONG Credit: Bleecker Street

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