LOVE Review

     August 18, 2011

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The plight of the lone man in space is a common trope of the science fiction genre. Moon, The Fountain, 2001- all explore in various degrees of effectiveness what (and/or who) man is stripped of all he knows, isolated in the vacuum of space. Love, a more than worthy addition to this micro-genre, ably explores the ramifications of complete isolation. The solution to which – one can perhaps easily surmise from the film’s title. Hit the jump for my full review.

Captain Lee Miller (relative newcomer Gunner Wright) is the first American in space after a twenty odd year break (a direct reference to NASA’s recent space program shutdown). His mission: to man a deserted International Space station by himself.  How long Miller has been up in space is left unsaid; but as we’re introduced, he seems to be suffering from the first pangs of loneliness. He stares at pictures of loved ones left by crews before him, imagining himself in their place. A prerecorded message from his brother will become Miller’s only connection to earth, for not soon thereafter all radio contact is cut. Miller then watches outside the spacecraft as the lights from earth burn out and die. What has happened to earth? Is this some elaborate stress management test of the higher ups? Are there any people remaining on earth? Is anyone coming to take him back home? Is he all that is left of humanity? Questions without answers, as it is the uncertainty that slowly drives Miller into complete fantasy – the left behind pictures coming to haunting life and the diary of a Civil War deserter all providing temporary comfort to Miller’s loneliness.

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The film is a showcase for Gunner Wright. For most of the runtime, he is the only person on screen and as such, he is tasked with carrying the brunt of the film. Wright brings a light touch to the proceedings. It would be easy in a film ostensibly about a guy slowly running out of oxygen to turn mordant, but Wright injects even the most grave of scenes with a surprising amount of levity. The light touches do not distract from the severity of the situation, instead serving to reinforce Miller’s character as he distances himself from his own impending doom. Of course these are all stopgaps and when Miller finally must acknowledge his mortality, Wright conveys the tragedy of a man who may not have “lived” all that much even when on earth.

For what is a life spent alone, the film overtly suggests (each act of the film is divvied with faux interviews of various people explicating on the importance of love and the need for human connection – a little ham fisted and leading but effective nevertheless). As Love progresses, it becomes less a film about survival and more about the search for intimacy before the inevitable.

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Grounding these weighty themes, first time director Will Eubank skillfully adds a tangible sense of claustrophobia to the scenes on the shuttle – in essence getting the audience inside Miller’s fragile head. The initial monochromatic whiteness of the space shuttle eventually giving way to a much more vivid and colorful spectrum, representative of Captain Miller’s slipping grip of reality. Love is a striking debut feature and Eubank establishes himself here as a young filmmaker to watch.

The score by rock band Angels and Airwaves (lead singer Tom DeLonge also serves as executive producer of the film) is for the most part rather minimalistic – a far cry from the more bombastic scores by other recent rock bands cum scorers The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk. This restraint only helps add to the deep sense of melancholy at the heart of the film. As the film veers into more shall-we-say psychedelic areas during the third act, the score justifiably becomes more notable and ever-present.

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Love will be released via box-set November 11th in conjunction with Angel and Airwaves’ new album but it’s a shame it won’t have any sort of limited theatrical run beforehand. Yes – the film screened in theaters for one night a week ago (of which I attended) but this hardly seems like enough of platform to reach an audience. Love is a smaller, more idiosyncratic film and would benefit from an extended run – where word-of-mouth and audience reaction could truly kick in. It’s also a film best suited for the big screen – as it makes the most of it’s limited budget. There are images in the third act that can’t quite be appreciated on television screens. Nevertheless, Love is a testament to what can be done on a shoestring budget (the entirety of the film was shot in Eubank’s parents’ backyard – the space shuttle constructed in their garage) with the right amount of verve and imagination. It is well worth seeking out on whatever platform you can find it.

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