Directed by William Eubank
2011, USA, 85 minutes
Invariably, a few other movies come to mind when describing Love. Solaris. Moon. 2001: A Space Odyssey. Love certainly evokes a fair share of science fiction heavy-hitters. It looks, sounds, and feels beautiful. The cinematography is dispassionate but entrancing. The music, by Angels & Airwaves (who also produced the film) is rich and ambitious. Love certainly has the feel of an epic film—but is that enough to make it epic?
The question director William Eubank is asking, “Is our history worth remembering?” certainly has the pedigree for a science fiction epic. Though most of the film is concerned with astronaut Lee Miller (Gunner Wright), who is stranded on the International Space Station after a terrible but mysterious apocalyptic event on earth cuts him off, it begins with (and occasionally returns to) the US Civil War and Union soldier Captain Lee Briggs (Bradley Horne). It seems like odd juxtaposition, but it works. In fact, the opening sequence, of a Rebel shelling the Union position and a subsequent Union charge, is among the most beautiful in an already visually stunning film, and the lonesome quality of Captain Briggs serves as effective thematic foreshadowing.
More to the point, Eubank doesn’t set out a clear path to answering his question. This isn’t a film that moves from one neatly solved problem to the next. It’s more a rumination than a solution. Of course, most existential science fiction is meant to be mostly questions, but Love ignores the temptation for trite answers (until the final moments of the film, anyway).
Here’s the unhappy problem. It’s one thing for a film to occasionally evoke its predecessors; after all, Love is responding to the same concerns as 2001. However, it’s something else for a film to constantly imitate them. What’s the value in covering some of the same ground as 2001 in the same way? Why do we want to be constantly reminded of a film besides the one we’re watching.
That said, 2001 comparisons are a particularly pleasant problem for a film to have. The fact is, Love, despite its odd title and Kubrick aspirations, is an aesthetically beautiful film. Eubank should be commended for creating something so rich with a budget so small. However, this is a film that doesn’t fulfill it’s ambitions.
– Dave Robson
The 6th Annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs October 20 though 27, 2011 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For complete festival info visit www.torontoafterdark.com.