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A Love Song review – still and sweet ballad of late-life rekindling

Max Walker-Silverman’s subdued but unmistakably warm drama, starring Dale Dickey, quietly wrestles with monumental feelings

What if you were given the power to turn back time? Or handed the control to amend a regret? Would you jump at the chance to alter an unfulfilled wish or sit with the peace that comes with hindsight? Such mindful questions are at the heart of A Love Song, Max Walker-Silverman’s compellingly tender debut that simmers with words unsaid as two former adolescent sweethearts come together to stoke the fires of what could have been.

Playing out with low-key dramatics, A Love Song introduces Faye (Dale Dickey) alone and untethered, but seemingly content. She busies herself with domestic tasks in her brown and yellow tone campervan, parked up by a lake in Colorado, awaiting the arrival of a guest with no estimated arrival date. She randomly allocates a mid-month Thursday on her calendar as though to will the arrival of the “someone” who, through love and heartbreak, has always been on her mind.

Rather ironically, A Love Song is distinct in its absence of a soundtrack; dialogue is sparse in favour of the film creating its own melody. There are no staccato beats or triumphant flourishes, but a rhythm composed instead of lyrical visuals. Alfonso Herrera Salcedo’s landscape compositions – nestled between mountains that hug the frame and a still lake that ripples under direct sunlight – offers a simple, scenic backdrop to widow Faye and widower Lito (Wes Studi) meeting. Lito arrives with no high emotions but a soft sense of reconnection, as two strangers search through their weathered past to find what once bonded them.

Dickey and Studi’s delicately contained performances inform this tale’s classic feel, western-like with Faye and Lito caught in a standoff to protect their hearts. While Studi does exemplary work here, this is Dickey’s rodeo, however. Cutting through the tranquillity, her Faye admits that following her husband’s death she was “too lonely to speak.” There’s a gentleness to her voice, a sense of nostalgic longing that underlines Dickey’s subtly rousing performance without ever leaning into sentimentality. Now, together, these two have a chance to raise their voices.

As the held distance between them slowly shrinks, be it from opposite sides of a canoe or shuffling closer on a bench, Walker-Silverman’s camera leans in to observe the slight wobble of Dickey’s upper lip, and Lito’s lowering gaze. As to reflect the stillness of these characters, A Love Song calls for patient viewing, but it's a request that undoubtedly rewards.

A Love Song is released in UK cinemas on 9 December.

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