D-Love

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

D-Love
"Beuca makes a solid lead and delivers the sort of all-out performance that's rare from somebody also handling directing duties."

Stefania (Elena Beuca) and Dan (Dave Rogers) have a marriage that is in serious trouble. There are many reasons for this, but they're not talking about them. Instead they're talking - yelling - about lost tickets and responsibility, outsde the airport. The first day back from holiday often feels rough but more so if one really doesn't want the life one is returning to. The last thing Stefania needs is Dan offering to share their cab with a random Danish hippy, then inviting said hippy to stay at their place after he misses his connection. Or at least, that's what she thinks.

The hippy (Ditlev Darmakaya, a friend of the director who is pretty much just playing himself) is polite and helpful and doesn't rob them in their sleep as Stefania fears, but he also doesn't wash very often and his attitude to life is painfully at odds with her own. The fact that he and Dan bond instantly just makes it worse. When she gets home from work the next day (after an altercation with a boss who would not seem out of place in The Devil Wears Prada) and finds that he's still there, she's at her wits' end. But as D-love (so dubbed because Dan can't pronounce his given name) gently coaxes her husband into rebuilding the confidence he's lost, her desperation finally forces her to do something about the pressures she's endured for far too long.

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Superficially the tale of a magical hippy who helps more conventional characters achieve enlightenment through random acts of kindness, this is actually a much grittier film wth a lot going on beneath the surface. We never really get to know D-love very well but there's a quiet centeredness about him that fits with his story; if he doesn't have mmuch narrative arc, it's because his journey is a much longer one. Beuca makes a solid lead and delivers the sort of all-out performance that's rare from somebody also handling directing duties. Rogers, meanwhile, gradually reveals Dan's complexity and inner torment in a very low key way. It's no wonder that Stefania and Dan don't understand each other, but we can also see, even early on, how their difference could work in their favour.

Alternating stark interiors and sun-bleached streets with scenes around the home, garden and hills that make use of long light and candles, Beuca's film transports viewers between harsh day to day realities and a dreamlike world that offers room for spiritual growth, yet these connections are never made explicit. D-love's philosophy is delivered sparingly with minimal trappings: it's not about the clothes or the 'special tea'. His appearance doesn't bring the rest of the world to a stop, and the couple still have fresh issues to confront. Meanwhile, the presence of friends, relatives and a surprisingly sympathetic stranger see them opening up to wider influences, allowing their relationship to become less claustrophobic.

A thoughtful character study that defies cliché to find a voice of its own, this often funny, warm hearted film hints at impressive things to come from its first-time director.

Reviewed on: 13 Jun 2017
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The lives of a couple struggling to keep their marriage together are profoundly altered when they get to know a young drifter.

Director: Elena Beuca

Writer: Dave Rogers

Starring: Elena Beuca, Dave Rogers, Ditlev Darmakaya

Year: 2016

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: US, Romania

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