A man stands beside a bed with a gun pointed at his wife and her lover as they sleep. This is the opening frame of The Killing of Two Lovers, a drama about the human condition that not only assaults the viewer like a punch to the gut, but also showcases exemplary talents both in front and behind the camera.
An impressive Clayne Crawford (Lethal Weapon series) stars as David, a husband separated from his wife and children. With a promise from his wife, Niki (Sepideh Moafi, The L Word), that they will try to work through their marriage struggles, David exercises every fibre in his being to hold himself together. His mind, body and soul are consumed by only two opposing notions: desperation for reconciliation and the impulse to kill. He is walking a tightrope, and it just keeps getting tighter. And serving as a stylistic metaphor, the film’s sound design perpetuates the intensity of David’s position with sounds of stressed metal and stretched cable.
The sounds of strain and tension are combined with a jarring 4:3 screen ratio, a representation of David’s emotional and physical restrictions. There are moments of clarity as he interacts with his kids, with the camera positioned at a great distance to fully show encompass the scope of David’s happy place. Interactions with his wife are shot in tight close ups, with certain things taking place partially out of frame – on the edge, literally.
This is very smart filmmaking from seasoned indie filmmaker Robert Machoian, whose 13-year career is populated by dozens of short films and features (including Home She Runs and God Bless the Child). Serving as writer and director, Machoian taps into that human condition with a keen observation and the patience to let all actions and emotions run a natural course.
Crawford is exceptional as David and his grasp of the material is strong. He taps into a deeply seeded psyche and balances the loving and devoted persona with the contrasting volatile and explosive mental state to perfection. We watch his ticking time bomb draw closer to the inevitable, and we want so badly for things to turn around for him. And as all that he cherishes and holds dear is taken away from him, the only control he has over his life is too diabolical to contemplate.
Suffice to say, The Killing of Two Lovers is a gut-wrenching experience, but it’s also hugely rewarding. It is a film that requires personal investment, and it holds you to that commitment right to the very end. With a master craftsman at the helm, no moment in the film is without reason; each and every frame has purpose. And with a roll call of exceptional performances, including Avery Pizzuto as their teenage daughter, the outcome is a film that pulls you into its world and holds you there as David wrestles with his reality. Desperately, you hope and pray that things go his way.
‘The Killing of Two Lovers’ was released in the US by Neon on May 14th. Pivot Pictures releases the film in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and Brisbane cinemas on September 16th (Sydney TBC).