de facto film reviews 2.5 stars

The vast open spaces of the American West have been used to great effect throughout the history of cinema. Across decades and across genres, these landscapes have been used to symbolize freedom, rugged individualism, and sometimes loneliness. In A Love Song, the debut feature of writer/director Max Walker-Silverman, we get a mix of all of these, though primarily the latter.

The focus of the film is on Faye (Dale Dickey), a woman who has brought her truck and a small camper out to a lakeside campsite to wait. It is unknown how long she has been waiting. An early scene shows her flipping the pages of a calendar, closing her eyes, and selecting a day with a marker. The day she lands on, she marks as “today”. All the audience knows is that she has been there long enough to start receiving mail. We are also told early on that she is waiting for someone but aren’t told who. So, the early section of the film is taken up with visits
from a variety of characters who are friendly enough, but whom we can instantly tell from the disappointment in Faye’s eyes, aren’t who she is waiting for. The rest of her time is spent fishing, reading, and listening to an old radio. The awaited visitor arrives approximately a third of the way through the film and turns out to be Lito (Wes Studi), a friend from Faye’s high school days, some forty years ago. We learn that both are widowed. Faye lost her husband seven years ago, and though the timing of Lito’s loss is never made concrete, it seems to have been more recent. Much of the remainder of the film is a duet between these two people as they reconnect.

A Love Song' Review: Dale Dickey and Wes Studi in Sundance Romance – The Hollywood Reporter

A Love Song is a terrific showcase for Dale Dickey, long a fantastic supporting presence in film and television, perhaps most notably in Winter’s Bone. This is Dickey’s film, and she takes full advantage with a performance that is full of emotion and beautiful quiet moments without ever feeling showy. Faye feels like a real person, and it is easy to care about her and to want to learn more about her. Her grief and loss feel true, as does her friendly nature to the film’s supporting characters. Studi also does excellent supporting work in the film. His Lito feels somewhat lost in the world, unsure why Faye reached out to reconnect with him and still struggling with his own loss. Their scenes together are the best scenes in the film, particularly a centerpiece moment inside Faye’s trailer where they explore their recent pasts.

Walker-Silverman’s direction is solid and not flashy, befitting his story. It takes grand advantage of the beautiful natural setting. But it is a first feature with a first feature’s mistakes. Some moments are left to linger too long, even in an 82-minute film, and some are unnecessarily cut short. There is a beautiful shot near the end of the film where Faye climbs part of a mountain and lays down, almost appearing to become one with the rock face. But Walker-Silverman cuts to the next scene immediately, greatly diminishing the power of the moment. Walker-Silverman’s screenplay is also a mixed bag. As mentioned, the scenes between Faye and Lito are very well done. A discussion about whether they still miss their lost spouses, which segues into a monologue from Faye about the extent of her early grief is incredibly powerful. But the nearly thirty minutes of the film before Lito arrives is likely to test an audience’s patience. The scenes featuring a young cowgirl who operates as the mouthpiece for four older brothers who don’t speak are particularly egregious. I’m assuming Walker-Silverman found the scenes charming, but they play like the worst kind of cutesy indie-screenplay indulgence. On the whole, A Love Song is not a great film, but is worth seeing because of the exceptional performances from Dickey and Studi.