SIFF 2011: LOVE Review

The greatest failing of first-time feature director William Eubank; Love is that ultimately, it's less than the sum of its parts. While nearly every frame of this stranded astronaut film by the former commercial director is immaculately-composed and is occasionally embedded with an interesting idea here and there, the whole thing fails to cohere into something that will stick with you beyond the initial viewing.

Love is another lonely astronaut story, but there's nothing wrong with that. The loneliness and fear of those men and women who brave the vacuum of space is fertile narrative territory. In this case, the unfortunate explorer, Captain Lee Miller (Gunner Wright) has the unenviable task of manning the international space station solo. He keeps himself occupied: he tends to the equipment, makes regular check-ins with ground control, and receives the occasional communication from back home. But then, abruptly, he loses contact with Earth. We get hints earlier that the international situation might be a bit tense while Lee--for a while at least--is certain he's being put through some kind of psychological test.

The scenes with Miller gradually realizing things are getting dire for him--there's only so much oxygen, you know--are the strongest parts of the movie. Wright plays Miller as a professional simply waiting to end his time up in space who finds out his contract has been unexpectedly, horrifyingly extended. Eubank's script and Wright's performance communicate that mix of loneliness, frustration, and boredom a character would plausibly find themselves in in those circumstances.

Intercut with Lee's predicament we see scenes of a Civil War soldier, Lee Briggs, whose experiences are documented in a mysterious diary that our astronaut finds aboard his ship. In it, Briggs details a journey to find an enigmatic object in the middle of the conflict between North and South. I'm willing to admit that perhaps I missed something, but I'm not certain the resolution of the movie plausibly explains the diary.

So it goes with much of Eubank's movie: so many interesting parts that don't entirely fit together. Visuals that look terrific, but don't necessarily fit with the story the writer-director is telling. Did I mention the talking head segments from several men at various stages in their lives? Shot documentary style, the topics of conversation range from communication, storytelling, to the life choices. By the time the credits roll we know where this footage comes from, but I'm not sure that thematically it has much bearing on our astronaut or his situation.

I could welcome this if the movie were simply left as an enigma, but in the final frames we're told "what it's about." Unfortunately, the problem is that the movie isn't exactly "about" much at all and in the end and the final fate of our lead fails to leave much impact.

Love is screening as part of the 37th Seattle International Film Festival. You can find out more about the festival at its site.


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