“How can you love something that ain’t there no more?”
When loneliness becomes a stifling part of ourselves, where do we go? Loss and grief only add and accentuate that feeling. They feed the void inside us that yearns for more. For the security, intimacy, and connection it promises. Max Walker-Silverman’s old-time romance A Love Song feels like a wave of emotions running through you. Starring Dale Dickey as a widowed woman who attempts to reconnect with the world through love, the film is as sweet and melancholy as its title promises to be. As any good love song usually is.
The film tethers its viewers to Dickey’s heartbreaking performance from the beginning. There’s a rawness and sweetness to her character that catches you by surprise. Dickey doesn’t fit conventional molds of femininity that usually represent these kinds of narratives. We often see performances like that of Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love or Reese Witherspoon in Wild. Their “rough” exterior is merely less glammed versions of themselves but still pretty much make up the average “beauty” standards. With a weathered face, Dickey not only subverts but exceeds expectations of desire. A widow looking for intimacy and love again.
Dickey rounds her performance with measured glances and a shy misdemeanor. Both of these beautifully portray the terror and uncertainty surrounding her character’s new predicament. Her performance is foiled so perfectly by the setting and space of the film. The vast expanse of the Colorado mountains serves as a conduit for Dickey’s character, Faye, to traverse out into the world. It is a vessel that allows passage to those she meets, including her high school sweetheart Lito (Wes Studi). Hoping to reconnect with Lito after the death of her husband, Faye soon learns that it’s not only her who needs to be ready for the world. After spending the night with her, Lito leaves the next day. Frightened by the overwhelming emotions of intimacy, being a widow himself.
Despite her disappointment, Faye turns to the mountains again. Marching up to the top is one of the film’s most poignant moments. As she reaches the top and turns to look at the setting sun, the glow of the golden hour softens Faye’s face almost as a beacon. It’s a very slow-paced and silent film, but a lot is said in moments like this. A moment that takes your breath away in its splendor cinematically but also narratively. She’s still standing.
After confessing to Lito that she spent two years not speaking after her husband’s death, she never lost faith in finding love again, taking new chances. Being vulnerable and hopeful that there’s love out there for her somewhere. In these grand spaces, both physically and figuratively, there’s life all around it. Sometimes, we focus on the singular interpersonal “love” that is so sought after that we forget about all the other kinds of love.
A Love Song is probably not for everyone. Its pacing and aimless nature are probably too repetitive and boring for some. But if you look closely at the moments where Faye stands almost suspended in time lost in thought, you can see a mirror reflected at yourself. If you’ve ever felt lost in this big world, too clouded by your thoughts, just look to Faye. Look to love songs as Faye did.
Not to be overlooked is the use of music in this film. The way the setting became another character in the movie, so does the soundtrack – another bridge to the world for Faye. Faye would turn the dial on an old-time radio whenever the mood struck until a random song would begin to play -charting her mood as the film progressed. Playing old country love songs that ranged from Valerie June’s “Slip Slide On By” to Balze Foley’s “The Way You Smile.” Painfully melancholic and sad songs gripped you just as hard as Lito leaves Faye. Clutching the radio, she let the tears track down her face in disappointment and sadness.
Like Faye’s desire for more in a world that proposes the opposite for women her age, A Love Song is worth the wait. It’s worth the time it takes to slowly unravel Faye, the woman at the center of this film, as another human being like yourself looking for that love. Perhaps that’s not a good enough reason for some, but it is for those who are also waiting for that knock at the door. – Mariana Delgado
A Love Song is pending a wide release date. For more Sundance 2022 coverage, keep an eye on our Twitter page and this site!