Somewhere in Terrence Malick’s new film SONG TO SONG there’s a beautiful, poignant, heartbreaking story about women — women falling in love, in struggling to live in their own bodies with the expectations society and toxic men place on them, in trying to find fulfillment and happiness — but unfortunately, with Malick being, well, Malick, it’s hard to find in the midst of everything else. Including plenty of other stories the film is trying to tell, but not succeeding nearly as well as its focus on the women of the film.
It’s difficult to get a handle on this film because it seems as though there are numerous films within, but they don’t organically blend together. Rather, due to this being a Terrence Malick project, it drags on its own self-indulgence, dabbling vaguely in experimentalism, and going on and on. Seriously, if you need to know one thing about this film, know this: it never ends. In fact, I think I’m probably still in the theater watching the film as I type this.
Set against the Austin music scene (the added layer of the film premiering at SXSW was not lost on the audience, though it’s less emotional than one may be led to believe), the film follows two couples — Faye (Rooney Mara) and BV (Ryan Gosling), and Cook (Michael Fassbender) and Rhonda (Natalie Portman) — as they deal with ambition, success, betrayal, and falling in and out of love. It’s exactly as self-reflective, loosely structured, and unevenly shot (some are beautiful, but there’s also far too much fisheye lens) as one can expect from Malick.
Cate Blanchett, Val Kilmer, and Bérénice Marlohen also have supporting roles.
One thing this film can absolutely be given is its performances, which all excel, the women especially — and perhaps intentionally. Mara feels like she was made for a Malick film and carries the emotional weight of the film throughout. The rest of the actresses are just as good, yet the film could have easily done with more of Blanchett (though so can every film) and Portman’s character deserved far better than what she got.
At various points throughout this film, it’s easy to feel bored, exasperated, wondrous, and frustrated, and yet, by the end, there’s also an unexpected sense of peace and love. It’s not easy to like this film, but it is easy for it to make you feel something.
Running time: 145 minutes
Anya is a writer and editor with a passion for pursuing diverse narratives and perspectives. Her feminist icons are Lauren Bacall and Leslie Knope and she can often be found at a Disney park when she’s not working on her Masters in Mass Communication/Journalism at Cal State University Northridge.
Follow Anya on Twitter: @anyacrittenton
Keep up with all of Anya’s reviews and stories here.
Anya Crittenton | Associate Editor