The Killing of Two Lovers

The Killing of Two Lovers ★★★★


The anxiety. The silent dread. The flashbacks. Okay, maybe that last part is just me, but because of my own tangential and extremely relatable experiences I can speak to the authenticity of the dialogue and the immense struggle we see David (most of all), Niki, and their kids endure as the try to navigate their broken marriage and find a path forward that is satisfactory to them all.

The choice to shoot this in 4:3 was brilliant, evoking a sense of claustrophobia as David's entire world seems to be closing in on him. He is a man who is clearly in love with his wife and who wants to be a good father. He also probably hasn't done the best of jobs as a husband and dad thus far. The story is shockingly modern, with the couple deciding (and by couple I mean the wife) to try a separation while seeing other people but still trying to maintain a dating relationship. It's a setup ripe for drama and we unsurprisingly get it in spades, an extremely natural feeling balance of explosive arguments and pleading negotiations.

The cinematography is stark and simple, but oh so beautiful and effective. There's not much going on in the frame and so we get a ton of close-ups and a real understanding of David's internal battle with rage, growing pain, and frustration with his situation. Being expected to move back home with your parents, live away from your kids, and accept your wife dating and sleeping with another man is a lot, it seems. The score/sound design is tremendous. You notice it pretty much right away after one of the most tension-filled openings of the year. From the background music that sounds like gun clicks to the occasional violent scream-filled release of emotion, we deeply feel how much of a ticking time bomb David is and are terrified of what he might do. It's a film that grabs your attention immediately and gives you very few moments to breathe along the way, ever building and building and building to what we naturally expect will be some kind of final tragic confrontation.

The performance by Clayne Crawford as David is phenomenal and one of the year's best. His depiction of suppressing emotions while trying to present someone that has it together is spot the hell on, that I assure you. I imagine others who've been in a place similar to David's may find this a tough watch, too. The only drawbacks of the film at all are in the portrayal of David's daughter Jesse, the performance of whom feels very amateurish unfortunately and borders on being distracting during their scenes together, and the way in which the film ends. I lean toward not being bothered by how the story wraps up narratively overall, but I was left wanting more details regardless. Despite that, the total package is a riveting, powerful work, and if you've got the stomach for this raw of a marital drama, you should not miss this movie.

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