Movie Review of Modern Love
Modern Love, directed by Alex Frayne, a recent feature release in Australia and the US, presents a somewhat hypnotic tale of one man's journey through his life, past demons to encounter and a present in which to unfold, resulting in an immersion into his own story with the ultimate undoing of himself, witnessed by his increasingly distressed wife and son.
The film takes the viewer into a complex world, pervading the question of what we create and are created by, leaving little to be comforted by, unless the main character, John, as he attempts to reconcile his past, finding his own nirvana enmeshed within his 'reality', gives any satisfaction. This is not a comfortable film. It confronts and disturbs. Yet, some kind of resonance with the complexity in which we all daily encounter is possibly comforting, as it is so richly expressed throughout.
Characters mysteriously entwine to uphold the revealing of story, as well as juxtaposing the presence of John's wife and son, who appear quite stark in comparison to the place they come back to for the burial of John's Uncle Tom, a man of significant standing, unravelling within the world of John. A town of difference and benign daily encountering, quite different from the city life from which they came.
Mark Constable, in the role of John, upholds an exquisite, enticing and involving representation of his character, with full commitment and connection, so much so, that I question where he sits in his own world, differing from this role. His ability to move, ever so slightly through the moments, with such precise alteration, moving expression and body from within a very deep place, understanding camera and those who witness. This actor is clearly one to watch and wish for greater things to come. Constable, a contemporary actor in his own right, equipped with an expressive face and wonderful delivery, I was left perplexed by his performance. His technique, mesmerising presence and subtle transition from a true inner motivation of being one with character, takes this actor to a singular place, worthy of knowing where he might be next in his career.
Tom, who opens the film, actor, Don Barker, surrogate father in black hat, holds the dominant force of the film, alluring in his frequent appearances, lingering with a dark cloud, symbolised with the dark hat shielding face, overhanging, poses the question of truth of his haunting bearing in John's inner search, the disturbed Daniel's unstable being (eerily performed by Craig Behenna) and ultimately an ethereal presence continued on in John's son, Henry.
John's wife, Emily, played by Victoria Hill, supports her lead with strength, vulnerability and poise, her character representing the real world, a different reality, providing an anchor for the viewer, possibly unhinged by the watching of many unstable characters depicted.
Henry, acted by the young Will Traeger, illuminates the character of his father, John and diffusion rules supreme, as he classically represents the position of child, to drink in the nature of the elder and take on the story unconsciously, to carry on a certain legacy, that of Tom and of his own father.
Other background support characters, compliment and contribute to the making of this story; the women in front of the televisions, unknown grandfather watching from a distance in the second hand shop, the motel woman delivering the son's gift and the supermarket woman's uncaring stare, all depicting a distancing, a space to be within, somewhat mirrored in John's character's own sense of mesmerising, mesmerised, the glazing over.
This film left with me a sense of unease, an uncertainty to find within, a place to reconcile some kind of individual sanctuary of calm after witnessing the turbulence of mind, twisting of experience and clinging to memory, expressed so beautifully in the lead character and all those moving throughout the film in varying space and time.
What message seems to appear within this film is on one level, a clarifying, a settling of what one might consider 'mentally unstable', to the challenge of how far one may go, to delve into some kind of self indulgence into a realm of introspectiveness, excluding those they love, self analysis in its extreme.
The style of cinematography soothed and hypnotised, floating between imagery and sound. The opening of this film had me intrigued immediately and resonated with the style of film I personally like to view, a distinctive originality.
For this relatively new film maker, maybe 17 years on the scene within this genre, yet with his first feature release, it is obvious director Alex Frayne draws from a wealth of experience well beyond his time, orchestrating a visual meditation into a place of newness and difference within story. One can only look forward to what is to come for this young film maker.
In summary, this is a film which challenges many levels of world existence and feeling, thought, contemplation and being. It may not be easy to watch at times, yet the wonderfully accomplished performance of actors, script, direction and sound and editing, brings something rather unusual and certainly warrants an opportunity to be considered as a different way of being with as a viewer. I commend the level of risk taken on all levels and see this as something we all could watch and take comfort in for recognition and resonance, maybe to a place we'd rather not go or be, but is, which brings a gift of seeing more.