The Killing Of Two Lovers

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Killing Of Two Lovers
"David is stubborn in ways that still retain sympathy, even from Nikki, thanks in no small part to Crawford's portrayal, which has a naturalistic looseness that springs taut just at the right moments." | Photo: Oscar Ignacio Jiminez

In the first few moments of The Killing Of Two Lovers when, in fact, a pair of lovers have a lucky reprieve courtesy of a flushed loo, we can hear the ragged breath of David (Clayne Crawford), a man whose world has skewed on its axis since he and his wife Nikki (Sepideh Moaffi) decided to take a break. This sense of closeness is something writer/director Robert Machoian maintains throughout this spare but satisfying indie film about a regular family man on the edge of fracturing in ways he won't be able to mend. The closeness is also emphasised by the fishbowl nature of the town where the pair of them live with their four kids, where if everyone doesn't already know your business, then it's probably only a matter of time. Even the 4:3 ratio - which will be briefly broken at a key moment - makes the walls feel as though they are closing in, while the snow on the ground adds to the chill factor.

There's also ironic humour, dark as the jug of black coffee David is holding when his love rival Derek (Chris Coy) brandishes a cup and asks: "Would you hit me", but it's overlaid with a constant sense of threat supplied by Peter Albrechtsen's deeply unsettling sound design, which expands in the spaces when David is alone with his thoughts. Filled with groans and creaks like a ship's hull about to give or a roof on the brink of being collapsed by snow, it is punctuated by what sounds like the thud of an axe splitting wood or a gun being cocked and tunes us into David's fragile emotional state as he strives to keep what he has.

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Although this is a character study of David, Nikki's perspective is well served and we can see why she's having doubts about the groove they are in. But David is stubborn in ways that still retain sympathy, even from Nikki, thanks in no small part to Crawford's portrayal, which has a naturalistic looseness that springs taut just at the right moments. There's a constant sense of striving even if David's bruised manhood isn't always attractive.

This shines through particularly in the scenes with his sons (played by Machoian's real-life sons Arri, Ezra and Jonah Graham) and older teen daughter Jesse (Avery Pizzuto), which capture the messy spirit of families, with Machoian carefully underpinning moments of joy with the background anxieties that are simmering because of their parents marital problems. There's also a melancholy to the interactions with Nikki, with Machoian proving a keen observer of human interaction, with every conversation feeling as though it comes from a place of deep-rooted shared history, with all the light and shade that entails.

Machoian has spent a decade making films in partnership with others and in short form, which is perhaps why this solo debut feels like such a mature work. He holds this marriage like a piece of precious glass, fragile and liable to break but also, when you look at it closely, a thing of quiet beauty.

Reviewed on: 15 Dec 2020
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David desperately tries to keep his family of six together during a separation from his wife. They both agree to see other people but David struggles to grapple with his wife’s new relationship.

Director: Robert Machoian

Writer: Robert Machoian

Starring: Clayne Crawford, Sepideh Moafi, Chris Coy, Barbara Whinnery, Avery Pizzuto, Ezra Graham, Arri Graham, Jonah Graham, Bruce Graham

Year: 2020

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: US


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