Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 14, 2020 7:24 am 
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Repressed violence

Repressed violence is the underlying theme of this interesting new film from Robert Machoian, which focuses on a couple in a trial separation. Some of his opportunities he has missed. There is a long dialogue between husband and estranged wife in a truck that's bold, and most of the scenes with kids are remarkably specific and natural. The hammering sound throughout (the obtrusive "soundscape" of Peter Albrechtsen), more suitable to a horror film, continues at the end to undermine the seemingly happy ending. Is worse violence afoot? Subtlety is one thing, confusion is another. And I'm not sure I quite believe the premise. But I have to admit the twist and its positive outcome worked for me.

David (Clayne Crawford) seems like a doormat, but he seethes inside, moved in with his dad nearby leaving his wife Nike (Sepideh Moafi) in the house with the four kids, three bouncy young ones who plainly adore him, and the teenage (but isn't the actress too old-looking?) daughter who is miserable with what's going on and wants it to stop. His wife seems to want this, a separation that's "open," so either person can be with somebody else. There's no indication David wants it. Why does he agree to it? This film is all in the dialogue, which pops with energy and realism, but doesn't quite define a conceivable situation.

A "compact, economical portrait," yes; a nice grayish yet colorful palette in the mostly Academy ratio images. Rural Utah landscapes that don't look at all clichéd. "An interior drama set mostly outside."

ND/NF blurb:
After a startling opening image of extreme tension, first-time solo director Robert Machoian’s stark, slow-burn drama never quite goes where you expect. An evocative and atmospheric transmission from wintry Utah, The Killing of Two Lovers is a compact, economical portrait of a husband and father trying to keep it together while seething with rage during a trial separation from his wife. An interior drama set mostly outside, on the vast, lonely street where David (a knockout Clayne Crawford) stays with his ailing father just a few doors up from his wife Niki (Sepideh Moafi) and their four kids, Machoian’s film compassionately depicts a family in crisis, while moving at the ominous pace of a thriller. A complex, brooding soundscape from Peter Albrechtsen that seems to emanate directly from the head of its disturbed protagonist, and a claustrophobic aspect ratio contribute to the powerful emotional register of this impressive new work of American independent cinema.

The Killing of Two Lovers, 84 mins., debuted at Sundance Jan. 2020; three other US festivals including New Direcdtors/New Films Mar. 2020, where it was screened for this review. US theatrical release slated for Sept. 2020. Currently screening in the delayed virtual pandemic edition of ND/NF in Dec. 2020.

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