Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Stuggling To Stay Alive In The Loneliest Place Off Earth: Love Resonates!

The Good: Exceptional character study, Great acting, Decent effects
The Bad: Almost no plot/pacing issues.
The Basics: Love is a powerful character study that is the natural successor to big-budget science fiction/philosophy films.

There are remarkably few films that I rewatch and I consider that my initial rating might have been too high. And yet, recently when I watched The Fountain (reviewed here!) again, I found myself far more bored than compelled. I think the film is well-constructed, but I am not sure, having seen it now four or five times, I would rate it as highly today. When I discovered the new-to-me film Love, I was impressed in a way that I had not been since The Fountain. I was even more surprised that, when I went to get cast information on the film, that it was rated so lowly on the IMDB.

Love, I suspect, did not reach an audience because it was a small-budget independent film with limited release and because it is set in space, one suspects that it was mischaracterized as a science fiction film. It is not, at least until the final twenty minutes of the movie. Love is a slow, careful, deliberate character study that explores more the nature of human loneliness and the survival instinct than it does outer space. More than that, Love explores the human condition surprisingly well, if starkly.

Starting in the American Civil War with a soldier’s contemplations on the nature of evil, Lee Briggs is tasked with investigating an object in Colorado that his peers cannot leave the Front to witness. Leaping ahead to the near future (2039), Lee Miller is a NASA Captain, stationed on the International Space Station (having been there longer than anyone else in space). One day, he is given an abrupt message from Mission Control that he will not be relieved anytime soon and that there might not be another supply run for quite some time.

As time passes, Miller goes stir-crazy and has to deal with things like electrical fires, loneliness, and diminishing supplies. Hallucinating a woman on the station with him, Miller has to reroute power on the station to stay alive and keep the fans running, Miller begins reading Briggs’ journal and empathizes with his sense of loneliness and futility. With a probable calamity on Earth below preventing him from ever returning, Miller survives for years after losing touch with Earth and he eventually makes the painful decision to leave the station, but encounters something unexpected instead.

Love is, in some ways, two films. The first film is one man’s slow story of survival and the entirely relatable exploration of his deep loneliness and sense of loss over the life he once knew. Intercut with his story, his desperate attempt to remain sane, are film clips of random people speaking to the camera about various experiences (like in When Harry Met Sally, reviewed here!). These seemingly random clips come into play only in the last twenty minutes of Love. In that section of the film, which is like an entirely different movie, Lee Miller finds himself in a very different setting and many of the videos come into play or have relevance.

It is only in the final twenty minutes that Love begins to take on the flavor of a science fiction film. Even that, however, is subject to debate as the film is packed with existential questions and overtones. Is Lee Miller in an alien ship? A monolith? A building in space? His own mind? A menagerie designed to keep some human DNA in existence after a catastrophic event? There is ample room for debate with the film’s resolution, but that is part of what makes Love so enjoyable. Love does not strive to give easy answers for what the viewer witnesess and as a result, it inspires debate, rewatching and conversation.

Written and directed by William Eubank, Love has all the makings of another cult classic, like Donnie Darko (reviewed here!). Eubank, however, has a vision that is far more intimate and introverted than something like Donnie Darko, which seems more about how the world may be changed by a single person’s actions. Love instead focuses on how the lack of a world, how isolation from society, may change a single individual and it is smart and haunting for all that it is.

What keeps Love together and compelling is the performance by Gunner Wright. Wright plays Lee Miller and he is quiet, deliberate and he is able to completely portray complex emotions on his own or opposite a simple computer monitor. Wright is quiet and wonderful and delivers a wrenching performance that is enough to keep the viewer in rapt attention despite the fact that his character is doing almost nothing for the bulk of the film.

Like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Love is a thinking-person’s film and it is artfully directed, in addition to being written in a compelling fashion.

For other similarly clever or compelling films, please visit my reviews of:
Southland Tales
Mulholland Drive


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment