For as long as I can remember, slow burn independent films have held a special place in my heart. There’s something so rewarding about sitting down and watching a story take time and precision to be told until you’re left with an ending that makes you think about how everything unfolded, and ultimately gives you something to take away from the overall film. The thing I’ve found with films who structure themselves as slow burns is that the ending isn’t always in favour of what the audience would want for the characters but instead stays realistic about how things would play out in their reality.
After a lot of festival buzz, I’ve finally been able to check out The Killing of Two Lovers; a slow burn drama about David, a man who is trying to keep himself as well as his family together during a separation from his wife. The biggest issue during this time is that they’ve agreed to seeing other people and David isn’t coping well with the introduction of another man into his wife’s life. Although David keeps himself composed while in front of any other character to appear in the story, behind closed doors he’s a complete mess and struggles to hold in his anger towards the situation.
It’s truly brutal to watch David balance a fine line of trying to keep his relationship hopeful with his wife without making it seem like he’s trying or pushing too hard. There’s a scene in particular where they attempt a date night that he’s planned out for the both of them, only for her to be adamant on staying close to the house in case something goes wrong with the kids. This decision comes from her after receiving a text that is most likely from her new man and it’s just so hard to watch as David holds in his sadness and continues to try for a good night. Their conversation remains mostly one sided and you can’t help but want to just jump into the scene and talk to him, filling in the silence that his wife’s created. This is a testament to how well this film is written and acted. The dialogue flows so well and the conversations feel so natural that you almost feel like you’re eavesdropping on these people. That’s sort of how I felt this entire film because of how it’s crafted. The audience is meant to feel like they are witnessing the portrait of a man’s lowest point and we shouldn’t be seeing this, but we’re invested and we can’t look away.
What I loved most about how this was narratively told is that neither David nor his wife are the villains here. While there are moments that I found myself angry with her, I just had to remember that there is so much more context behind this relationship then what we’ve seen. Director and writer Robert Machoian doesn’t treat the audience like idiots. He doesn’t fill in every blank for us and instead throws us into a scenario that isn’t just beginning from the moment we step in, but instead has been ongoing. We don’t know how their relationship was before the film started and you can clearly tell that his wife has already checked out from this while David is clearly holding onto something that borderline no longer exists. You really feel for him and while she may at times seem like the villain after watching him try to salvage their relationship on his own, you just need to remind yourself that she didn’t flip a switch and turn on him. This has all been brewing for what seems like some time.
When it comes to the score and editing, this sort of feels like a horror film. It’s entirely unsettling and makes you quite uneasy for most of its duration but it definitely suits the tone and stakes of the film. The idea of slowly losing your family and having another man infiltrate it is horrific, and the score heightens that by making you tense even if nothing big is happening in the moment. But between these tense moments, there’s some beautiful scenes where we get to witness David outside of his marriage and instead as a father. The way he interacts with his three young sons and teenage daughter is a highlight of the film because his character removes himself from the drama and inserts himself into the very playful and innocent world that his sons are living in. It’s a breath of fresh air from the somber mood of the story. There’s a scene in particular where he takes the kids to the park and while the younger boys are excited and having a good time, his teenage daughter is miserable and moody. The sad part is that she’s losing out on the small moments with her father that come with them living in the same house. Her time with her dad is seemingly going to be shared with her energetic younger brothers from now on. Seeing the difference between how the younger kids and her are coping is just straight up depressing, but an accurate portrayal of kids going through separation.
As much as the direction and writing are fantastic, Clayne Crawford’s (Lethal Weapon) central performance as David is nothing short of spectacular. From the opening moments to the very last shot, he controls the screen with vulnerability and this unspoken charm. His chemistry with anyone who popped up on screen with him was undeniable and when it came to showing his dramatic chops, there was no holding back; specifically during the climax of the film where everything begins to implode. I’m even gonna go as far to say this may be one of my favourite performances in the last couple years.
The Killing of Two Lovers is a beautiful and devastating story from start to finish. In the end, you’re left wondering if anyone even wins in this story or if it’s all just bound to go south again after its resolution. Either way, this is an indie gem that I’m glad to have gotten to watch and I can already tell this will continue to be positively received by many. Definitely do not miss this film.