The Killing of Two Lovers premiered at the Sundance Festival in 2020 as the perfect example of an arthouse movie. From its poster, through the opening scene till the very end, it carries this typical festival indie spirit. It is row and captivating movie about broken dreams, hopes and loneliness.
The Killing of Two Lovers is about a married couple – David and Nikki, who are now going through a trial separation. They trying to figure out where they stand with each other, while also dating other people. It is a simple story told in an unpretentious yet very artistic way.
It seems that the story is more focused on David, who is not taking the separation well and definitely not happy that his wife is dating another guy. We are actually not told very many things about the couple – except that they were high school sweethearts and married young. They now have 4 children and it seems they still live in their hometown. David was an aspiring musician, but his career never took off and now he is doing random jobs as a worker or handy man. The whole time I was wondering what happened to them, to get from having 4 children to being on the verge of divorce. Then I am thinking, does it really matter? I guess it does, but this is not the focus of the movie. I think that it is a great writer’s decision to never give a specific reason, although hinting here and there. At the end of the day, maybe it is not just one single reason that ends a relationship, sometimes it is just life happening.
Sometimes life happens and you have no control over it, you feel powerless and small – I think this is the very core of the movie. This is a feeling I am very familiar with, and I think many of you can relate to it – although maybe not in the context of marriage or relationship. But even if you have not been in a similar situation, the movie really helps you to get into the story. The scenery of winter Utah and various scenes of vast empty fields, and open endless roads, create the feeling of despair and nothingness. We even see shots of David placed in the corner of the frame. I think it is a very artistic way of recreating the inner world of the character who feels trapped, caught in a grim situation outside of his control.
Naturally, with the feeling of despair comes the feelings of rage, and tension. And these are the other predominant feelings in the movie. I think the title really sets some expectations, and as a viewer, you almost have no choice but to expect something bad to happen any moment. It is really impressive how the director Robert Machoan managed to create such an almost tangible atmosphere with a cast of just a few people, with scattered dialogs and quiet scenes. I think here lies the true mastery of this movie. It is really simple and slow, yet it is charged with feelings and meaning. Nothing happens, yet happens just enough to make you submerge in the story.
The Killing of Two Lovers is a very authentic experience and an experience that provokes a lot of thoughts. Watching this movie I was thinking about life a lot – how you are young, you are full of hopes, and you make plans about your future. Suddenly, it is 10 years later, and you are not at the place you were imagining you would be. And if you are at an age similar to the one of the characters in this movie, you would understand very well how, even against your best efforts and intentions, things may not go your way – regardless if we talk about family, career, or living situation. I love that the movie doesn’t give an explanation of how and why the characters found themselves in this situation, and it does not point fingers either.
As I said, it is more focused on David, the male character, and naturally there is a focus on the feeling of rage, of this violent element in the male nature. I came across the opinions that this is a movie about domestic violence. And although I cannot justify pointing a gun at your sleeping wife’s head by no means, I don’t think David is portraited as a villain. I don’t think it was the director’s intention to expose him, to judge or punish him either. And only a great director can distance himself from his characters in such a way, and in the same time to manage to reveal their inner world with all its complexity.
At the end of the The Killing of Two Lovers is just a movie about a human beings pushed to their emotional limits. It is very raw, very human, and very universal story.
Cinematography and directing
Robert Machoian – this is a name I didn’t know before watching this movie. I have checked him on the internet, and it seems he has done a lot of short and documentary movies. And the feature movies he has done, they seem to gravitate around people put in difficult situations. I will check his previous work, and I hope he will continue to do such movies because he is really good at capturing human emotions, and revealing his characters’ inner struggles through cinematography. Every scene of this movie is absolutely perfect, some frames could easily be posters or postcards – just look at the movie poster.
The Killing of Two Lovers is not the perfect movie, but it is definitely worth watching. It is an amazing exercise in cinema where there is a thought in everything, where sounds and every frame counts.