SXSW 2017: “Song to Song” Review by Ashley Menzel
So we kicked off SXSW 2017 with probably one of the most anticipated films of the entire festival. Directed by Terrence Malick, starring Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, and Natalie Portman, this was sure to be a fantastic film. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong. It’s not that the performances were bad because in fact alone they were pretty great, but it was the lack of story and misguided direction coupled with a few other issues that made Song to Song a long and tedious drawn out film and a sad way to start off SXSW.
Like I said, the stars of the film are ALL Oscar-nominated actors and actresses, so I expected a great film. The performances from them were not bad but rather just lost in the meandering storytelling and lack of direction. The story doesn’t go in a particular direction, and some events are muddled and its hard to tell whether you are watching a memory or something happening in real time. This makes the film incredibly trying.
The cinematography is impressive. There is a lot of shaky cam use and a POV type quality to much of the shots. It adds a unique perspective to the film, but the length detracts from that. There is a lot of repetitive imagery which again adds to the monotony of the film. If I had to see another person look out another freakin’ window, I was going to push them out of it. My Halloween costume this year will be me dressed as Rooney Mara wrapping myself in a curtain. The disappointing part about the film is that Terrence Malick obviously has a great eye for beauty. Some of the shots are just stunning with beautiful colorful imagery. It shows Austin in a majestic light.
Another incredibly distracting part of the film is the fact that we hardly ever hear the characters speak to each other. Almost the entire film is done in voice over from all the various characters. You don’t even get a signal that it is another character speaking, so you better know all these actors’ and actresses’ voices. There are a few moments where I couldn’t tell if Mara was speaking or Portman.
A visual smorgasbord of striking imagery of Austin, a stellar cast, and enchanting music did next to nothing to save this meandering storyline. Unlikeable and unrelatable characters and the repetitive nature will lull the audience to sleep. Song to Song is, unfortunately, a hugely disappointing way to kick off a film festival.