May 31, 2021

SCREEN | Middling Despair – Marrying 'The Killing of Two Lovers'

"You need to fight for us."
Clayne Crawford Sepideh Moafi Robert Machoian | The Killing of Two Lovers
Neon / Elevation Pictures
Writer/director Robert Machoian's riveting psychological drama is one of the more creative uses of a film's title in eliciting dramatic tension possibly ever. The meticulously brooding The Killing of Two Lovers is irresistibly taut and thrilling despite its mostly very ordinary domestic material about marital strife and a desperate man struggling to keep his family together.

Clayne Crawford and Sepideh Moafi star as an everyday small-town couple, David and Nikki, with four kids on a trial separation trying to work on their marriage while she's also seeing another man (something they agreed to). We follow David over the course of a couple days where his conflicted feelings about the troubled state of his relationship threaten to get the better of him.

Crawford, who basically carries the film's entire 84-minute runtime, is transfixing in his understated emotional performance. His David is surprisingly sensitive and thoughtful about the handling of the separation while setting clear limits and boundaries for himself and his kids. This level-headed and clear-eyed frustration is understandable despite the obvious despair echoed in the title and opening sequence constantly teasing the increasing possibility of a violent boiling point.

What makes The Killing of Two Lovers so effective is its restraint. It goes to deeply personal places in testing the limits of its characters while maintaining a very grounded level of intimate drama. Machoian's absorbing camera shifts and moves with this family to very ordinary places yet fleshes a sense of underlying darkness. Its cinematic vision is also particularly impressive considering its narrative constraints and the usual lean indie drama appeal. It certainly takes advantage of a very stressful conceit.

The Killing of Two Lovers is available to stream on various digital platforms including VIFF Connect and through video on demand.


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