One of the films with the biggest buzz coming into the Santa Barbara International Film Festival this year was Love, an art house film supported and scored by Tom DeLonge of the band Angels & Airwaves and left in the capable hands of first time feature film director Will Eubank.
The trailer for Love created significant interest in film fans, as it spent a large amount of time in the top five most viewed on iTunes Trailers – and its debut at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival was met with large crowds, Angels & Airwaves fans and curious filmgoers alike.
Love is the story of Lee Miller (Gunner Wright), an astronaut aboard the International Space Station serving as skeleton crew for an unnamed mission. His nearing return to Earth and reconnection with his loved ones is marred by the sudden loss of communication between the space station and ground control. When Lee realizes that contact with the world below is likely not to be forthcoming – he attempts to adapt to the loneliness and isolation of his surroundings.
Much of the film deals with deterioration – that of the space station and the erosion of the walls of sanity that Lee lives behind like the rest of us. As he contends with the mechanical and life support failures of the space station, he also struggles with the crushing loneliness that eventually manifests itself in voices, seeing people that aren’t there – and perhaps imagined images of what has happened to the planet below that has caused his separation from humanity.
Much of Love is built on the idea of interpretation – that the audience can fill in the blanks and decide what is perhaps, a flashback to better times and missed lovers -- and what is simply a figment of Lee’s strained imagination. There is a Solaris-like bend to the film, a spiritual, science fiction element that will make audiences question setting and reality.
Add to that a mysterious connection to a civil war Captain and his discovery in the middle of a giant crater one hundred and seventy five years prior – and well, if you want art house – you’re very much given it in spades.
Gunner Wright carries a large load as the primary screen presence, and he does an excellent job of showing the deterioration of a logical man. Many films turn the loss of one’s senses into a frantic, almost comically silly thing – whereas here, we watch Lee bounce between skirting the edge of sanity, and reeling himself in – he’s self-aware enough at times to see where things are going. You’d get the sense that most astronauts would handle a situation like this in a similar way.
While director Will Eubank knows his story, again – this is very much the narrative of the audience, and it can mean many things to different people. For some, that might not exactly be a good thing – Love can at times get very broad with scenes, dialogue, and flow. Basically, if you’re keen on clarity and the linear, Love is going to leave you frustrated. For others, however—the challenge of understanding what is what may lead to a desire for repeat viewings, which for me – is a lot of fun.
Where Love falls short is length – as it could have been presented leaner, with scenes that could have been given their weight and meaning without a good bit of standing and looking at things in awe, or confusion. The pace in the last twenty minutes begins to crawl, and I found myself feeling like we were somewhat stumbling in places to the last ten – which are worth getting to, but still.
Will creates a visually stunning film, pulling cinematography duty as well as writing and directing. The opening sequence of Love is achingly beautiful and intense – even if you saw nothing but the first ten minutes, you’d be leaving with a cinematic treat. Add to this the fact that Will and his brothers spent years building sets for an underground Civil War bunker sequence that doesn’t even account for a quarter of the film in his parent’s backyard and you can definitely make an argument for dedication to craft.
Angels & Airwaves, the neo-prog rock band of Blink 182’s Tom DeLonge, lay down a very minimalist score – which generally fits, in keeping with the silent isolation that much of the film focuses on. It was so ambient and low-key at times, I found myself making an effort to find it. That said – I’ll take quiet and unobtrusive over getting beaten over the head with a soundtrack plug. One of the more interesting notes in the development of this film relates to that, in that DeLonge initially hired Eubank to film around ten music videos to accompany one of their album releases, but was so impressed by what he saw – decided rather to support the director’s vision for a feature film.
Overall, I found Love to be one of the more engaging, visually exciting art house films I’ve seen in some time; they manage a larger budget feel with much less than was actually available impressively. This is a film that’s clearly not for everyone – but has a lot to offer the Inception and Moon crowds.
Love is well worth seeking out in theaters – but don’t miss it on DVD if you don’t get the opportunity.