The Killing Of Two Lovers
Clayne Crawford, Sepideh Moafi, Chris Coy
…frequently grasps at greatness.
The breakdown of a marriage can be a knock-down, drag-out, jawbreaker of a thing, fuelled by pain, anger, jealousy and desperation. It can also be the stuff of transcendent cinema, as evidenced by the likes of Kramer Vs. Kramer, Marriage Story, Shoot The Moon, Smash Palace, and now The Killing Of Two Lovers. Written, edited and directed by indie stalwart Robert Machoian (God Bless The Child, When She Runs), this is a tough, grim, uncompromising film streaked with true poetry that frequently grasps at greatness.
In a powerful, imaginative, richly layered and deeply sympathetic performance, Clayne Crawford (who also exec produces here, and is best known for his work on TV series like Lethal Weapon, Rectify and 24) is mesmerising as David, a scratch-around kind of guy who has some talent as a singer/songwriter, but instead mainly works at odd jobs. He’s currently separated from and trying to work things out with his wife, Nikki (the excellent Sepideh Moafi), while maintaining a rock-solid, meaningful relationship with his four kids. The presence of Nikki’s new boyfriend, Derek (Chris Coy is a wonderful mix of menace and unctuousness), however, threatens to send everything hurtling towards ruination.
While unapologetically told from David’s viewpoint (Sepideh Moafi works hard to prevent the somewhat passive-aggressive and deceptive Nikki from becoming the ersatz villain of the piece), The Killing Of Two Lovers remains totally even-handed in its depiction of a marriage teetering on the brink. Just like in real life, everyone here is flawed to some degree, and all of the characters make mistakes. We feel for them all, and particularly for David and Nikki’s daughter, Jess (Avery Pizzuto in a deeply moving performance), who is being hit by the breakup far harder than her young brothers.
As well as its rolling series of emotional knock-outs, The Killing Of Two Lovers is also a cinematic tour de force. The gritty but artful, creatively autumnal cinematography of Oscar Ignacio Jimenez is a revelation, while the decision to shoot in the boxy, claustrophobic and profoundly intimate 4:3 aspect ratio is a masterstroke, allowing the faces of the film’s characters to truly take centre stage. Robert Machoian’s dialogue is naturalistic, but always sits just slightly left of centre, while his facility for tension is astounding. Though the budget is obviously low, Machoian makes the film’s grit a virtue, and often grinds a surprising beauty out of it.
Wrenching, sad, occasionally mordantly funny, and painfully honest and true at every turn, The Killing Of Two Lovers is a quiet triumph.