It doesn’t happen all that often, but this past week I’ve watched a film that has moved me emotionally in a way I haven’t experienced in a while.
First-time director William Eubank’s debut film LOVE just seemed to press all the right buttons as it rocketed into my top 10 of the year. Despite a limited budget and a small cast – in which Gunner Wright is the real star with a compelling performance – LOVE’s message about us mere humans living life yearning for contact and experiences with others is something that resonated with me.
Maybe it’s the fact I’m a hopeless romantic in my personal life. I love knowing there are people around me who I can affect in a myriad of ways. Maybe it’s knowing that via my film writing I could inspire just one person to look out a little-known film based upon my opinion of it.
To be honest, it’s a little bit of everything. LOVE is a cinematic wonder – an aesthetic that belies its budget, grand themes that prove a small indie film can have something important to say when it’s in the right hands, in this case, Eubank. I must add that the epic score provided by US supergroup Angels and Airwaves also helps add emotional heft at the right moments – but my eulogising them is for another day and another website.
Sure, some may find my fawning over LOVE as a bit OTT or somewhat pretentious. I couldn’t care less. When a film moves me in this way, I can’t help but adore it. Too often I’ll watch a movie and be left cold, indifferent or just plain angry (see my Project X review to see how that riled me to the point of near-spontaneous combustion).
Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, on the otherhand, is another movie that means a whole lot to me. Sure, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are fantastic, but it’s the overall story and the moral of the tale that hit home. Relationships are hard, of that there’s no doubt. They are even harder to portray on screen in a believable way. While the overall tone of Blue Valentine may be somewhat bleak, it’s the realistic way we witness the demise of Dean and Cindy’s marriage that’s jaw-dropping.
I’m always rooting for the couple suffering problems to pull through and live happily ever after, so when it doesn’t turn out that way it can feel like a jolt to the system. Hollywood has always been obsessed with the ‘happy endings’, but life experience tells us this is rarely the case.
Even American History X – my favourite film of all time – is something of a mood killer despite it’s message that people can change for the better. Brothers Derek (Ed Norton) and Danny Vinyward (Ed Furlong) could not be more different to begin with. Derek is a Neo-Nazi skinhead with a hatred for anyone not white or Christian. Danny, on the other hand, is a studious kid with a bright future. But their relationship takes a turn for the worse upon Derek’s imprisonment for the brutal murder of a black car thief. Via flashback we witness how his twisted view of the world has a negative impact on Danny’s personality.
Despite Derek experiencing something of an epiphany in prison – he begins to realise the error of his ways and upon release is a changed man – Danny goes in the opposite direction, with heartbreaking results.
While writing this, it has become vividly apparent that, for me, relationships within film are mightily important. Maybe I put that down to the simple fact that relationships in real life are vital to me. Friendship, love, working partnerships, without them life would be an empty existence. The same can definitely be said about films – without those, life would be utterly depressing.
So thank you to Cianfrance, Tony Kaye and Eubank for giving me three stunning films that don’t sugarcoat the difficulty faced by maintaining relationships. Without you, and many more directors, Hollywood would be a saccharine sweet boakfest!