Dale Dickey plays a widow reflecting on life and love and the possibility of connection with an old friend in writer/director Max Walker-Silverman’s tender character study A Love Song.
Finding a way to liveby Chris Drew
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
As we meet 60-something Faye (Dale Dickey, Winter’s Bone) she is quietly camping by a lake in the Colorado mountains in her own rhythm of fishing, birdwatching and studying the stars. But she is also expectantly watching the track, and we learn that she is awaiting the arrival of an old friend.
The opening of feature debut director Max Walker-Silverman’s film is almost silent as we observe the patterns of Faye’s simple life. It is unclear how long she has been camping and Faye herself feels unsure how long she has been there and how long she will stay.
The campsite is remote, other plots appear to be far out of sight, and we discover it is a meaningful spot as her father had been a shepherd working on the mountain behind her caravan.
Faye is so isolated that it is almost a shock – both to the viewer and Faye – when she encounters other people, which makes seeing how she’ll react intriguing.
While initially expressing quiet surprise and moments of uncertainty, her interactions are filled with warmth and good spirits, whether it is with the friendly postal worker, a lesbian couple who offer a dinner invite or a family of cowhands looking to move their father’s burial plot.
There are subtly observed comedic moments: Faye marching off to follow birdsong with her binoculars clamped tightly to her eyes and her deadpan surprise at the offer of a canoe in return for her car engine by the cowhand family.
By the time Lito (Wes Studi, Hostiles) arrives it is easy to already feel affection for Faye. On seeing each other, each asks, “you know me?” before a sweet reintroduction as they walk, reminisce over childhood memories, swim in the lake and share a guitar duet.
In between there are silences and a feeling that much is left unspoken. When Lito wants to take Faye’s photo, she is initially unsure, as it has been seven years since she was photographed.
Both have lost their partners and they share experiences of grief before some almost bashful anticipation of where Lito will spend the night. Faye’s bittersweet reunion with Lito is at the heart of the film and is movingly played by both actors.
Southwest Colorado is beautifully shot with stunning wide-open vistas and sunsets over the lake and mountains. With sparse dialogue, A Love Song is a film led by mood and feeling, and the score, combining guitar and birdsong, adds to this in an affecting way.
In a rare lead role, character actress Dickey shines in a wonderful performance (already recognised by the Film Independent Spirit Awards and Gotham Awards) that carries the film. With weariness and pain etched on her face, often shot in close-up, she gives Faye real depth, combining a great sadness with warmth and hope.
A Love Song is a beautifully simple and contemplative film about grief and loneliness and the power of love and memory. It marks Walker-Silverman out as a talent to watch as a new voice in independent cinema.
A Love Song premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival and is released on 9 December 2022 in the UK.