Anyone familiar with Terence Malick’s recent work will know commercialism is far from high on his agenda when it comes to his filmmaking style of sweeping camera shots and beautiful sprawling landscapes with clean cut lines of high definition interiors and a poetic yet sparse use of dialogue. Knight of Cups, for example, had an art house pretension which sat awkwardly dull with most, failing to enlighten audiences with its style over substance. Malick’s follow-up, Song To Song, finally goes a long way in rectifying his past inadequacies by finally incorporating a sturdy plot and a satisfying dialogue.
With the exciting casting of Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling in the lead roles embroiled in the hedonistic world of the music industry and caught up in an unhealthy love triangle; Malick not only appeals to a wider audience but gives these household names a chance to flap their acting chops in roles we rarely witness.
Still leading with Malick’s trademark traits of visually stunning settings and poetic narratives and the character’s ability to orbit each other in a playful manner, Song to Song’s Austin, Texas backdrop and Music scene scenario plays at the heart of the themes of betrayal, seduction and people’s ability to hurt the ones we love the most. Mara plays Faye, a wannabe musician at the heart of the elite whilst being connected to the creative artists. Fassbender comes in as Cook, a sharp-suited, hard nose Music producer in an exceptionally unlikable role asserting himself on all those around him, Gosling as BV, the tender and grounded musician with an immense talent but has a lack of confidence. As the three become the best of friends frolicking around the beaches of Mexico, attending star-studded parties and gracing the festival stage, the relationships become complicated as Faye falls in love with the playful and loving BV but is also enticed by the rough and risky passion of Cook.
In amongst the stylised settings, Malick uses a home video style of camerawork, set in numerous settings backstage filled with natural performances from our leads as they mix with the likes of Iggy Pop, John Lydon, Flea and Patti Smith who all making cameo appearances. Propping up the cameo list of stars are Natalie Portman who spends most of her time frolicking in a bedroom with Fassbender in an oversized shirt indulging in his drug-addled lustful threesomes, Cate Blanchett’s cameo is more subdued as she pairs up with Gosling.
Song to Song wouldn’t be a Malick marmite masterpiece without its modern edge of pretentiousness and it has it in abundance, there is no brash loudness but a calming penchant of softness in its depression and unhappiness unfolding on its unsuspecting heart but as these actors give an impassioned performance of excellence you find yourself hating what they become and feel your heartbreak at their loss. Even if you hated To The Wonder and Knight of Cups, Song to Song is by far worthy of your effort to give it a much-needed watch.
Song to Song is released July 7.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Terence Malick
STARS: Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman
RUNTIME: 129 Mins