Tuesday, October 16, 2018

In short: A Song for the Living (2018)

When the mother of Brandon (Grayson Low) dies, he is heartbroken. He and her were particularly close and were even still living together – the script pleasingly not reading this as creepy for once in a movie. He doesn’t understand why she didn’t even leave him a suicide note. However, Brandon’s mother did indeed leave one, though it has only been found by the town’s funeral director Fiona (Nicole Elizabeth Olson), who reads the note, keeps it, and starts a strange kind of seduction on Brandon. When the film leaves us alone with her sister Caterina (Kate Linder) and Caterina’s half-crazy and rather mistreated husband Lassiter (Bob Buckley), their conversations suggest Fiona has more or less decided to fall in love with Brandon for some reason everyone does not quite make precise. It’s only clear it’s not a completely healthy reason, and that there are very sinister undertones to Fiona’s understanding of love.

Colin Floom’s and Greg Nemer’s dark fantasy tale is an interesting little film, at times poetic, at times a smidgen disturbing, and at times a bit peculiar. It mixes folkloric elements – the importance of a song for what is going on here is a particularly fine example in that regard – with a view of love that seems informed by the Romantics in their darker hours and a tone and style that’s close to the more indie side of slow horror, and certainly more interested in people and ideas than in having a spring-loaded cat jump out of a cupboard every five minutes.

Despite some frayed edges that usually come with a low budget, the film’s visual side is strong, making much out of some fine locations to create a mood that wavers between the naturalistic and the dreamlike.The acting is fine as well, Olson giving off just the right mixture of attractiveness, strangeness as well as a darker and crueller undercurrent, while Low seems perpetually lost and puzzled, which seems to be absolutely appropriate to the situation he finds himself in.

It’s not a film everyone will enjoy as much as I did, I think: there will certainly be too much ambiguity about the characters, the ending, and even what the film actually thinks about any of what it is showing for some, and the film’s particular strain of Romanticism will strike others as a bit too much. Today, I find myself much fonder of this approach than having to go through yet another film where everything’s clear but also completely conventional.

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