A Song to Song

Kate Charlton | 26/06/2017

A Song to Song starts slow – snail-pace slow. There’s a series of seemingly unrelated shots of nothing, and a breathy voice-over reflecting endlessly about nothing. The audience waits in anticipation for something, anything, to start happening; or even to start making sense. Frustratingly, two hours later you’re still waiting. 

Unfortunately, an open mind was inadequate to fully take in this film. With a blockbuster cast, and an impressive list of performances that didn't make the final cut (including Christian Bale), a transformative journey that transports one to the Austin music scene would have been expected. This did not happen. Instead, cinemagoers will be left confused, uninspired, and bored. Indeed, in the screening Film Focus attended at the Sydney International Film Festival, 29 people walked out of the theatre - yes, we counted; it was the only entertaining part of the screening.

 

The movie is a modern love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene. Two entangled couples - struggling songwriters Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling), and music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender) and the waitress whom he ensnares (Natalie Portman) - chase success through a rock 'n' roll landscape of seduction and betrayal. But you could be forgiven for missing these plotlines in the glacially slow, impossibly frustrating Malick shambles.

 

While Natalie Portman is publicized as one of the leads, her whole arc lacks direction and seems irrelevant - this is made clear by the fact she isn't even given a name. You get the sense that her character was added in as an afterthought, and because of a desire to include more PG groping scenes (of which there are many). This is not to say the actors gave sub-par performances. In fact all of them were fabulous and cannot be blamed for the complete lack of direction of the film. 

 

Conclusion

A Song to Song was an experience in cinematography, and there were many beautiful shots. Perhaps the enlightened few who can make sense of Malick's works and appreciate it for what it is will disagree, but it is a relatively safe statement to say that this is not a movie that will be appreciated by the majority. Impossible to recommend, unless you are looking for a comfy place to have a 2 hours’ snooze (one that will undoubtedly be interrupted by the sounds of people leaving mid-way through).