Details: 90 mins, In Cinemas 30 August 2012, United States, English
Synopsis: After losing contact with Earth, Astronaut Lee Miller (Gunner Wright) becomes stranded in orbit alone aboard the International Space Station. As time passes and life support systems dwindle, Lee battles to maintain his sanity – and simply stay alive. His world is a claustrophobic and lonely existence, until he makes a strange discovery aboard the ship.
Indie sci-fi lacks focus.
There’s nothing supple or elegant or inspiring about the way it delivers its self-important treatise on the fragility of our existence
Soon after Love begins we’re plunged into a maelstrom of images, scenes, and moments in a bewildering collage of cuts, and loud and splintered sound bites. The film spins through time without offering any attempt to orient the viewer – the point seems to be complete immersion into the trippy, near psychedelic world of the picture. It’s the movie equivalent of word-association.
I’d read a brief on the film and was expecting a sci-fi pic but, beyond an early and short vignette of the earth seen from orbit, we’re plunged into what seems to be an American Civil War picture. Desperate Union soldiers are scrambling in a muddy battlefield. Below it, in the catacomb-like tunnels that serve as the frontline H.Q., a soldier, Lee Briggs (Bradley Horne), is offered an assignment by a senior officer; he is to investigate a mysterious object that’s turned up in the landscape on ground controlled by Union Forces. Lee takes the mission knowing full well that his comrades are doomed (we see them massacred a bit later). We sense his guilt; but we also get the feeling that whatever he will find will somehow redeem his sense of duty to his brotherhood…
Lee keeps a diary, which he fills with soul-searching mind-bending philosophical musings about Man and His Role in the Universe. We hear excerpts from his diary entry occasionally; they sound like deleted voice-over from an imagined Terence Malick picture. Even the actor’s sonorous but vulnerable delivery is weighed down by meaning – this guy sounds like he’s writing not to himself, but a letter to the future.
And of course, in a sense he is. Lee Briggs’ diary is found, nearly 200 years later, in a space station above the earth, by an astronaut called Lee Miller (Gunnar Wright). Perhaps just as the first Lee intended, his words will Mean Something in the context of this discovery. For this film’s writer, director and cinematographer William Eubanks I think it’s supposed to mean that the movie is about the interconnectedness of all things…but it plays like he’s cribbing plot and theme notes from the more lofty strain of sci-fi films. Love - the mysterious title isn’t explained till the very end and I won’t spoil it – is a mix of 2001 and Solaris with lots of Carl Sagan and Arthur C Clarke as well. That implies the film is highly serious; but Love has no rigor. There’s nothing supple or elegant or inspiring about the way it delivers its self-important treatise on the fragility of our existence. It’s a sci-fi mood piece about isolation and the dignity of humanity…but it plays more like it’s in love with hardware and creating a powerful atmosphere of dread.
Eubanks has real gifts as a filmmaker; the film, a very low budget indie piece, is more sophisticated on a craft level than a lot of bigger productions but his writing and plot tricks are full of vague ideas that only hint at depth.
Once the Civil War prelude is over, the film settles down to its real setting. Most of the action happens on board the International Space Station as it orbits Earth (our planet is seen as a blue bauble framed out the ship’s small window throughout the film – it looks small and delicate). Lee Miller is the first astronaut in space for 20 years. After initial success on the mission he finds that he can no longer communicate with his command back home; there’s no explanation but the film hints at some kind of world apocalypse. Lee starts to go crazy with a combination of fear and loneliness at the idea that there is no home to return to…
Eubanks contrasts the action on board the ISS with ‘video messages’ he cuts into Lee’s story. These bits are like self-realisation testimonials; they’re very moving but they crash into the lonely astronaut’s story in a way that breaks the director’s delicate mood.
The best thing about the film – and in a way this is a bad thing – is the film’s spectacular ISS set. Eubanks built it in his parent’s back yard and it’s a superbly detailed and convincing set-piece.
Love was produced by Angels and Airwaves and they perform the film’s music; a surge of ambience that ripples over the action in a way that’s very exciting. But what’s strange about this film, which seems a hymn to Humanity is that it is, emotionally, rather bottled. Despite its pleas for human understanding the film is doggedly cerebral. Lee (the astronaut) isn’t a character; he’s that great emblem beloved by sci-fi writers since the Dawn of the Genre – the Last Man Left Alive in the Universe (and Gunnar Wright is a strong and compelling presence). But his pain lies on the periphery of a film that’s full of Big Ideas. Love is beautiful and lovely and as remote as a distant star.
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