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Rick McGrath [Celluloid 10.26.11] movie review scifi

Year: 2011
Directors: William Eubank
Writers: William Eubank
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Rick McGrath
Rating: 8 out of 10

Love is a wonderfully ballardian inner-space story of how the logic of madness can offer escape from even the nightmarish hell of being trapped all alone in an orbiting spacecraft. Or in a theatre, alone, watching this movie. Forever. Just kidding.

Now, there’s a disturbing thought to ponder – how long would you last? For an audience ready to get out there where no one can hear you scream, the question may have been moot. Love started playing and the packed house at the Toronto After Dark festival for the Toronto Premiere was appropriately surprised to find themselves not in a Kubrickian cartwheel through space, but in a muddy, earthbound Civil War battlefield. What the hey?

We watch, confused a tad, and just before the dirt and bodies start flying through the air in flowing slo-mo above, in a bunker below a survivalist Lieutenant Lee Briggs is given a solo mission by his General to find and report on some unusual mechanical object found in a nearby canyon. Off he goes, from underground to overground… and pretty well everybody left behind is killed. Briggs completes his mission, and writes his adventures up in a journal…

A pretty cool little piece of foreshadowing, that, and to a large degree what happens in the rest of Love is a repetition and extension of that little story, but told in space. Clever, eh? Now, let’s examine if this rather unusual opening structure reveals any clues as to this enigmatic story’s possible meaning.

We’re naturally drawn to the element that ties the two timeframes together – Briggs’ enigmatic journal, saved by the family and rather magically discovered onboard by our stranded astronaut, Lee Miller, who just happens to be a direct, if distant relative. The mad genius of the journal is that Briggs goes to the right place, checks things out, but doesn’t actually report on what he saw. For Miller, already teetering on the edge of madness, his frustration with not knowing what Briggs saw becomes an obsession. And why not? After years of absolute solitary in a deteriorating tube 220 miles above earth, Miller’s desire to know what his ancestor saw, like his desire to return to earth, will remain forever alive and forever unattainable. At least in this reality.

Suddenly, after years have passed, Miller’s computer comes to life with a message from Houston. Is help on the way? Or has Miller finally lost his mind. Anticipating rescue, he gets decked out in his 2001-style spacesuit, and after crawling thru the deserted station finally manages to escape this cage and return to the earth of his own inner space, exploring his imagination until he discovers a history book that answers the question of what Briggs saw – a spaceship in the centre of the Barrington Crater in Arizona. Any surprises there? I’m going to surmise at that point Miller realizes he’s not alone in the universe, even if he’s the last human, and he undergoes some kind of incredible light-bending metamorphosis that no doubt represents his ultimate loss of self and his mental blending into the great universal life-force. Or something like that. Hey, it’s arthouse.

Yes, Love is very well presented. The physically competent Gunner Wright plays Lee Miller, and like virtually any over-trained astronaut he gives a coolly understated, controlled performance. Where others might open up an air hatch and say good-bye, he keeps to his health, figures out how long his food, water and air will last, shuts down unnecessary parts of the station, and generally does his duty. It’s actually quite amazing he stays as sane as he does for as long as he does – he doesn’t even have a computer to interface with (perhaps an oversight for 2039?) – and his initial fantasies don’t dwell on any specific psychopathologies, save some sexual visions. His existential trauma is best expressed in the emotionally revealing scene where he’s out in space at the end of his tether rope, trying to get just that much closer to earth. All he has to do is make the decision to unclip from the rope and fall back home, arriving as ash, but he still can’t let go and returns to the grim reality of being locked up with himself.

Writer/Director William Eubank seems perfectly competent going from music videos to movies, and Angels & Airwaves supply an interesting and appropriate, yet not overwhelming soundtrack for a situation where basically nothing much happens. The set itself is appropriately claustrophobic – basically two intersecting tubes – and Eubank wrings an amazing amount of visual content from it, although even his imagination begins to flag near the end.

The oddest aspect of Love is Eubank’s unexplained reason for interrupting the non-action with cutaways to what appears to be general members of the public philosophizing generally on some event, presumably the plight that has powered down earth. They’re all in the same studio, in front of the same background. Part of a lost documentary on the unknown catastrophe? Arthouse overkill? That, and my nitpick about how the space station, which isn’t turning, can have a gravity. That, I’m sure, has something to do with the ages-old equation: gravity in space = lack of budget.

Love. Dunno if it’s a love it or leave it movie, but it certainly is a pleasantly complex piece of eye candy with a great soundtrack and just enough contextual information to kickstart your mind on its many and various explanations. It’s well worth a view… just don’t go alone.

Rochefort also reviewed LOVE at Fantastic Fest

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