(Dir: Terrence Malick, 2017)
Terrence Malick has one of the most unique styles and voices in cinema, something you either have the patience for or you don't. Since 2011's mostly incredible The Tree of Life – a film almost unlike anything else out there – he's pushed this singular vision through three further films, the latest being Song to Song. He's a director who eschews the traditional forms of storytelling that we're so used to. There's no formal script, just an overarching story that utilises a lot of improvisation to get where it's going, and a reliance on wistful voiceovers to dig deeper into a character's thoughts and their soul. A preoccupation with shared moments forces a sense of intimacy between characters, and he's most concerned with the weighty themes of love, faith, our connection to nature and the core tenets of the human condition. The editing, cinematography and musical choices are always something to behold.
Song to Song doesn't deviate from this template, it just exists in a different environment than Malick's previous films. Centered around the music scene in Austin, Texas, this is a doomed love story where BV (Ryan Gosling) falls for damaged Faye (Rooney Mara), whilst wayward producer Cook (Michael Fassbender) is both a friend and a thorn in their sides. More than ably supporting are Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett. This proves a more engaging story than previous film Knight of Cups, where a lonely actor played by Christian Bale is caught in an existential quagmire in LA, and offers more variety than meditation on marriage To the Wonder. There's a playfulness that feels natural in this setting and the cast slot into their roles just right, most notably Mara who is as excellent as ever, perfectly embodying a character torn by love, her impulses, and what she rightly or wrongly feels she deserves.
As ever Malick has cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki on board, who is one of the best shooting today, meaning a constantly fluid camera that dances with the characters and creates an intimacy, whilst highlighting a world of little details that most films would ignore as story and time won't allow it. This is all shot on differing formats and is, as ever, a Herculean feat of editing. Music is a constant in Malick's films, usually consisting of highly evocative and superbly chosen classical snippets (there's never really a score as such), but Song to Song demands something different, so we get a plethora of pieces representing the music scenes these characters inhabit. All of this adds up to Song To Song being Malick's best film since The Tree of Life – but his films only truly work when you feel some sort of connection with them, and this one is no different, making this an extremely subjective opinion. It's an enticing world to be lost in for two hours if you let the film wash over you and you just go with it.