Song to Song Review
Malick’s trademark nonlinear storytelling is better than ever, the film seamlessly floating like air.
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Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman
MPAA Rating: R
Release Date: March 24
Walking into the movie theater to go see Song to Song, I hadn’t had the best of days and frankly wasn’t feeling that well. Tired and somewhat irritated, I was in dire need of a shot in the arm. I sat down, one of only two people in the theater, and hoped to be lifted up. Two hours and one film later, I felt completely mended again, walking out of the theater a better person than I was walking in.
Terrence Malick’s exquisite Song to Song, set against the music scene of Austin, Tex., revolves around two intersecting love triangles. Up-and-coming indie musicians Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling) meet and soon fall in love, but not to be met with pitfalls along the way. The two are seduced into the extravagant world of Cook (Michael Fassbender), a snake-like and devilish music producer. BV seeks to find fame and money within Cook, as Faye indulges in a romantic affair with him. Shy waitress Rhonda (Natalie Portman) soon meets Cook, changing up the chords of the main protagonists’ relationships. The four all have different goals and different obstacles, yet they all seek to find solace within themselves and each other. But to say that Song to Song is only about this plot would be outright false. Rather, it is an immense, meditative experience on connection, forgiveness, and love. If you’ve ever wondered what it’d look like to watch poetry, this would be your answer.
Malick’s trademark nonlinear storytelling is better than ever, the film seamlessly floating like air. Balanced perfectly between too slow and too fast, he lets the music, mood and motifs of the film take their time to develop and allow you to soak in the aura. Instead of a traditional three-act plot, Song to Song is rather an incredible tide of emotion that just washes right over you. Along with Malick’s direction, the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, as usual, is superb. Like a pitcher-catcher battery, Malick and Lubezki together create images that epitomize cinema. Every second of every shot is alive with feeling, thematic and philosophical depth practically oozing off the screen.
Another key part of the movie is the music that embodies the story, whether it be rock n’ roll, classical, or even soul. A good portion of the film was actually shot at the South By Southwest Festival, added along with cameos from musicians such as Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, and The Black Lips. But, even despite their famed, musical backgrounds, they bring fable-like morals to the story in a brief amount of time, all meshing together to create a wonderful vibe. That vibe is also brought out by the main cast’s sensational work, making you totally forget that they are movie stars. You’re truly able to see the human element and universal connection within all of them to an extent that is flaming with absolute passion, something that usually is never achieved on-screen.
All of those elements along with the overarching themes that Malick has been working towards and building up to in his latest works To The Wonder and Knight of Cups finally come together perfectly in Song to Song, with a fervent energy and soul that is nothing less than gorgeous.
Yet, the quiet peace and meditation that continually develops throughout is what really makes the film special. It will without a doubt leave you in wonder and awe, pondering about what it means to love and forgive. It’s quite the unique experience if you choose to let it be an experience, rather than expecting a film that goes from Point A to Point B.
It is quite a shame, also, that Song to Song, like most of Malick’s work, will be go on to be called presumptuous, vacuous, flimsy, and (the one I love) boring. At a time when audiences love to be given the answers to a story and hate to infer, think, or interpret, it’s unfortunate that people can’t appreciate raw image, sound, and sentiment just as it is.
But even more so, it is incredibly rare that a movie directly gives its audience moral lessons as much as Song to Song does. The theme of love and all its wonders, hardships, unknowns, and above all, healing, is never brought out as sublimely as it is here.
As Faye, entangled within BV’s arms, thinks of the joy that love, both romantic and human, has brought her, she remembers the peoples of foreign lands they’ve met, birds they’ve seen flying through the sky, the touch of the sun on their skin. Softly, as if the world is still with peace, she utters, “This. Only this.”
Yes. This indeed.