DIRECTED BY: William Eubank
WRITTEN BY: William Eubank
PEW PEW: You will witness more action waiting in line at the DMV.
CAT FOOD: Love is absolutely rife with social commentary, both on the surface and deep inside its baffling presentation.
Every so often, I’m presented with a film that entirely polarises my movie-watching sensibilities. While I am a devout fan of exciting films that provide pure entertainment quality, I also enjoy a good art piece that moves and provides brilliant conceptual imagery. I prefer it when these two walk hand-in-hand, but they do only on the rarest of occasions, I’m afraid.
William Eubank’s 2011 film Love is a challenge, to be sure. Half of me wants to berate it, and half of me wants to praise it. I’m pretty sure the dude who requested this review knew this was going to happen. Thanks, buddy.
The biggest problem I have with Love presents itself immediately upon pressing play. The thing is ungainly inaccessible. It suffers from Prometheus Syndrome. It prefers to present its ample intelligence by baffling instead of providing access points for the viewer to dig in. I get it, the film is about the viewer’s interpretation, and there are keys along the way to prime what each individual chapter is focusing on, and I do believe that films can be non-linear from time to time, but this thing taxed my interest greatly.
Right from the beginning, we are shown images from the American Civil War that eventually do weave into the fabric of the larger narrative, but it’s a lame way to start the thing and will lose people with its sparse and mindbogglingly boring and uninteresting narration. Jesus Murphy.
Once we get to the actually story, there’s something wonderful to be said. Love’s foundation is built on one of the neatest and most spine-tingling thoughts ever to have been proposed to my sci-fi-loving brain. In 2039, Astronaut Lee Miller (played by Gunner Wright in a commendable performance) has been sent to the International Space Station to examine its condition and to prepare it for reintegration into the space program. What kicks my mind’s ass is that a war-related catastrophe on Earth (one that we do get to witness from space, to a fascinating degree) destroys his connection with mission control and effectively strands him in the station.
Who thinks of this?! What happens to the astronauts when the apocalypse happens?!! So fucking cool!!!! So Lee has to come to terms with the fact that no one is coming for him and he’s stuck in a tiny space station, orbiting a home planet he can never set foot on again. It’s horribly stirring, to say the least. Scenes where he lies curled in a ball staring out at the blue surface of the planet are some of the most haunting I’ve seen in film.
The resulting presentation is a little like watching one of Harlow’s well of despair experiments playing out. As mentioned above, the film is presented in loose chapters that are introduced by mockumentary footage of random people discussing regular life issues relating to human relations. Lee’s story somewhat mirrors these interviews, but in a way that is quite ambiguous and left up to the viewer’s interpretation. As his mind gradually falls apart, Lee has to initially deal with such mundane things boredom and fear, but is eventually faced with crippling loneliness, suicidal urges, existential crises, and nostalgic memories and delusions that chide him quite powerfully.
As an art piece, Love is quite stunning and I absolutely must praise the core story’s ultimate output. The visual is gorgeous for an independent picture, and the score by Tom DeLonge’s Angels & Airwaves is unexpectedly minimalist, remaining faithful to the plot’s goal. As an Angels & Airwaves fan I was, however, expecting a song-based soundtrack like Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I expected something more like their incredible and goosebumps-inducing song “The Adventure” set to a science fiction epic about the longing of the human spirit for love. Instead, I got a minimalist score and a whimper as the human soul attempts to deal with the body flickering out.
The ending is at least as baffling as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Interstellar, but because the story is largely inaccessible to all but the most artistically-minded, it’s really hard to build up the desire to put it all together. The boring-to-ultimate-revelation ratio is sadly unbalanced and pretty unfulfilling in the long run. Love could really have benefited from a better structure that presented its concept in a way that made it easier to grasp. We would have arrived at the same conclusion, but without the headache caused by colossal sensory underload.
Essentially, Love kind of forces the mind to shut off in frustration, preventing the average viewer from picking up on the abundant subtle nuances that make this film beautiful. Instead, it should have encouraged the mind to be on the look out for these lovely highlights. It’s a little like sculpting the most gorgeous statue ever, putting it in a dark room with ugly statues, and forcing the viewer to feel around. He’ll probably find the statue if he tries. He will genuinely feel the difference when he touches its beauty. Oh, and if he really loves art, he’ll definitely walk away from the experience saying that it presented a truly unique and enlightening experience. But most people will just say, “fuck it, let’s just look at some paintings.”
So yeah, I’m half-and-half on this one, but the way my ratings system works, I have to rate it based on how enjoyable it is, with no half-stars. Love is a wondrously great concept that could have been a magnificent movie, but it’s held back by its baffling presentation. It gets three stars, meaning that it’s a good film. And it is. If you’re really, really into art, by all means add a star, because I think it is more than worthy of a four-star rating as a magnificent work of art.