Film Review: Song to Song (2017)

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ – 3/5.

Author: Feargal Agard | Runtime: 129 min. | Director: Terrence Malick | Year: 2017.

What a different approach. I did not know what to expect I think Terrence Malick went for a very natural style when it comes to the performances of the actors. I am not much a fan of a lot of voice over and I did feel that the film was too long to keep people’s attention span engaged with a film that could be considered as unconventional, but I can appreciate his deviation from the standard film format. I enjoyed Rooney Mara’s, Michael Fassbender’s and Ryan Gosling’s performances.

Song to Song takes place in the Austin, Texas music scene. BV (Ryan Gosling) befriends the well-established music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender). That is when he meets Faye (Rooney Mara) who knows Cook from when she used to be his intern. Both BV and Faye are trying to become popular lyricists in the music scene. Cook helps BV launch his career and together with Faye they travel from town to music festivals all over the States and they even spend their time in luxurious spas and villas. Faye and BV fall in love with each other, but when BV finds out that she used to have something with Cook things begin to change and a love triangle develops. Obsession, betrayal, seduction and contemplation take over their lives. Until Cook ensnares the waitress Rhonda (Natalie Portman) into their love story, which causes his relationship with Faye and BV fade away. Even BV and Faye grow apart. Will this be the end of their crazy lifestyle? Will they ever make it again in the music scene or will they give up and return to normal life?

Song to Song was written and directed by Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven) and his film made its world premiere at South by Southwest. The film thematically deals with a familiar mix of living the wild-life, freedom and escapism, but also a love-triangle and obsession. The film is unpredictable but not in the way you’d expect, because it just does not follow any conventional routes. You are basically looking at the life events of a group of friends and lovers who themselves aren’t sure where their lives are headed. So, I guess in that sense Malick succeeded in conveying that to us as spectators, because experience the same feeling about the films direction. Still, I find it hard to unravel Malick’s possible philosophical approach that he meant to display through this film. The film stars Rooney Mara (Carol), Michael Fassbender (Shame, Prometheus), Ryan Gosling (Drive), Natalie Portman (Black Swan), Iggy Pop, Lykke Li, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale.

I enjoyed the performances that all the main actors portrayed. It becomes very obvious that it was the point to not have the actors act like characters in a movie scene, but Malick went for a very natural feel. No acted drama, but just purely being your daily self. Rooney Mara portrayed a characters that was very conflicted in a way. She plays hard to get, is very shy at times, she’s open to almost everything (she even claims to submissive through her voice over), seeks guidance and overtly contemplates her own life. BV is just that cool guy who’s happy to meet Cook as they develop this bromance where they can never get enough of each other, nor can they ever upset each other. Eventually they do show their true colors at some point. This counts mostly for Cook as we find out that he is not as honest as he portrays himself to be. Natalie Portman plays a smaller role in the film and makes her appearance much later in the film. In the end the characters show that they all want to succeed in life and if not they’ll choose for a simple life. Overall it was very natural and they were not so set in a particular role, which may even come off as too neutral. Next to that this film is very voice over driven, mostly Mara’s, but also from the other characters. We learn most of their thought through their voice-over dialogues.

When it comes to aesthetics I would not say that it’s the most beautiful film. It is definitely not ugly either. Most scenes are in full or all focus. It gives this fish eye lens kind of feel, and sometimes we really see shots filmed through a fish eye lens point of view. It feels very documentary style as if we are to believe that these are documented images of the characters life’s journey, which is not crazy being it that Malick has occupied himself with documentaries right before this film. It’s not per se a cinema verité approach, but it treads on that border, because to me the scenes were these coincidentally filmed takes by a bystander who was observing the characters. Even though music and fast images alternated to compensate against an either sluggish film experience, the film in my opinion was still too long. It might have worked to the film’s advantage if the film’s length was somewhat shorter.

I don’t think that Song to Song will entertain the Hollywood blockbuster lover. This film represents in my opinion a puzzle piece project. A film that needs to be watched and analyzed several times before you understand the underlying hidden themes and messages. Most people do not like that. So, this is not your usual sit back and relax film to watch, but if you like independent films, if you are a Terrence Malick fan and you love the star cast this could be the film for you to see.

In Dutch theatres as from the 4th of May 2017.

Genre: Drama, romance | Language: English | Dutch Distributor: Cinéart Nederland BV.

All rights of this film and the pictures displayed are owned and reserved to the rightful owners.

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