Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | July 27th, 2022
A Love Song (Max Walker-Silverman, 2022) 3½ out of 4 stars.
Actress Dale Dickey (Bloodline) has spent her career playing tough women who channel the bitterness of hard lives into aggressive anger, alarming strength, and no small amount of enduring resilience. By now, her heavily lined face has become not only a cinematic icon but also a fascinating landscape as beautiful to behold as the rugged Colorado mountains that dot the background of A Love Story, the debut feature from writer/director Max Walker-Silverman. In the film, she portrays the widowed Faye, in late middle-age, who travels to a sparsely populated lakeside campsite to await the arrival of a high-school flame. She still bears her usual emotional scars, but this time they reveal a tender, vulnerable optimism. It’s a moving, heartbreaking performance.
She is joined by Wes Studi (Badland), another screen veteran who is here given a chance to try something new, as well. He plays Lito, the man Dale is waiting for. Before his arrival, we are given plenty of scenes to appreciate Dickey through a marvel of behavioral acting that has her catching crawdads, loaning her truck engine to a nearby family in need, and more. Walker-Silverman paints his movie canvas in muted colors that slowly fashion into a rich profile of a vibrant human being in all her glory, however tinged with melancholy that splendor may be. By the time Studi arrives, we are ready for him, even if Dale is caught unawares.
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and the story of Dale and Lito does not follow any kind of predetermined trajectory. What is assured is a lovely pas de deux of experienced artists mining the blissfully sparse dialogue for every last nuance. Cinematographer Alfonso Herrera Salcedo (The Hole in the Fence) and composer Ramzi Bashour—along with the rest of the creative team—provide lyrical accompaniment to the central dance, bringing evocative images and music to bear on this poignant tale of loss and love. Everything comes together in a gently stirring mix, even if some character motivations prove occasionally hard to fathom.
Walker-Silverman populates his single location with a supporting cast that brings quiet humor to this lonely fable, emphasizing the quotidian joy to be found in even the simplest interactions. For whom is the love song sung? For Dale, for Lito, for us, and especially for cinema. Big things come in small packages, and this microbudget indie more than delivers its awesome goods.