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  • After the suicide of his father, a withdrawn young man travels to the family home on Sway Lake to retrieve a valuable record, only to encounter his shrewd grandmother with the same aim.

    As the many shots of Sway Lake itself reveal, this feature debut from director Ari Gold regards nature as a thing of beauty. Alas, what this film never manages to achieve is sharing a greater fondness for the characters and the drama before us.

    Bursts of Kerouacian hedonism and chauvinism from Ollie Sway (Rory Culkin) and his thrillseeking Russian friend Nikolai (Robert Sheehan) make way for a more melancholic film upon the arrival of Ollie's grandmother Charlie (Mary Beth Peil), who is looking to sell off the property. There is much focus on what once was, and a nostalgia that threatens to blinker the present for generations young and old.

    Charlie and Nikolai are the most interesting characters and have an engaging interplay as each is fascinated by a romanticised version of the other. Unfortunately, there is very little for them to actually go out and do together, putting this subplot in circles for much of the film.

    There is at least a little complexity to Charlie, who is at once cruel to those close to her and wistful for a lost husband and a lost era. A great hindrance to The Song of Sway Lake is its lead character Ollie being totally bland, and neither he nor his relationship with local girl Isadora (Isabelle McNally) is of much interest beyond bemusement that she would give such a weedy voyeur the time of day.

    At the core of the story is a hunt for a fabled record of much value, recorded and named after Sway Lake. Ollie is convinced his recently deceased father would've wanted him to have it as a work of art, while Charlie wants it purely for its monetary value. Charlie is the only surviving person to have specifically been left the Sway Lake record; how Ollie has any actual claim to it is one of the many things never fully delved into. Perhaps more interesting than this tired trope is Nikolai, who appropriates the Sway family history in substitute for his own lack of one.

    Unfortunately, there are only so many ways you can film someone looking through troves of vinyl, and the film meanders through them. This is a real shame as a soundtrack of Cole Porter and Fred Astaire show Gold's passion for music, which is also reflected in the attitudes of the Sway family, but a character's obsession with grading records is equally as unwieldy cinematic material.

    There seems to be an awareness that some of the film may struggle to capture an audience's attention, yet the nudity sprinkled throughout Sway Lake smacks of desperation. Particular focus is on Nikolai's body, and while the man is undoubtedly beautiful, it's hardly a substitute for an engaging plot line.

    Sway Lake is about time standing still and always moving, preserving the beauty of nature, the selfish joy of youth, the untouchable essence of love. There are many ideas present; perhaps too many for much of it to really resonate. Two affecting moments perk up the film in the final act, but ultimately cliché and melodrama sink the ship.
  • This is a good movie, with several well-defined and strongly portrayed characters. The first few minutes of the movie were the weakest, with some voice-over and some scenes from the past that would have been better presented as flashbacks later in the movie, once we are invested in the characters and the story.

    Recommended.

    Note. It was a pleasant surprise to see Elizabeth Pena in a new movie, three years after her untimely death. It was a small role, but one with heart, worthy of her.
  • Kirpianuscus10 November 2018
    I saw it as a personal story about myself. About past and its figures, about choices, about love, about an object who could change everything and it does it but in profound special manner. And about a place, sacred for the memories and for the connections with it and for lovely manner to invent it as part of yourself. Two performances are real siignificant -Mary Beth Peil as Charlie and Robert Sheehan as Nikolay. One is more than beautiful - the young Rory Culkin as an Oliver Sway looking for invent his present. The source of love for this film, in my case, was the simple feeling to discover fragments of my life. Each film about yourself is a great discover. Fictionally, off course, but this status remains the only important. Short, a great movie. And a beautiful work in the most profound sense.
  • Ari Gold (Adventures of Power) is a risk-taking art-making movie director. In a departure from his earlier work, The Song of Sway Lake is interested in human relationships, in the power of nostalgia and loss, and quite a bit more. It's a film that puts emotion before all else; and Gold, who also co-wrote the screenplay, realizes how places and objects, and especially music from the past can transport you and, like the central character, Ollie (Rory Culkin) can even get too strong a hold. Ollie returns to the lake house where his family has lived for generations and where his own father committed suicide some years earlier. He hopes to find an old record album that is a prized possession, which contains secrets and clues form his family's past, but is buried among the tons of albums and other collectibles stored in the vast house.

    Ari brings a friend along to keep him company, another lost soul named Nikolai, who seems to fit right into the property that sits on Sway Lake, like a hand in an old glove. It isn't until Ollie's grandmother Charlotte "Charlie" Sway shows up that things get very complicated.

    Ollie's is stuck in the past and this clashes with his present. it prevents him from growing up and from moving on with his life. Even during his stay in the increasingly busier lake house, he forms a romance with a local young lady, but his ability to connect always seems hampered by the weight of the past.

    The film itself almost feels like a gift from the past, it seems too overly earnest at moments and tapping into some vein that is dried out in these more cynical times. It's a movie that might have been made just around the time when Ronald Reagan came into office, the end of the innocence, as one singer song writer put it a while back. Youth is often difficult to leave behind as it is, let alone with you lose a parent and a way of life. When it's just snatched away from you. Some of this pain is palpable in Gold's movie. And you can hear it in the brilliant soundtrack composed by Ethan Gold, Ari's brother and collaborator.

    Finally, it would be a shame not to mention the that the film contains the great actor Elizabeth Pena's final performance on film. It's a hard thing not to feel that loss as well as you watch this singularly unique film.
  • This is the type of movie in which you won't regret watching it after the film is over, but you might think what else you could have done with your time and money if you spent any to see it.
  • Top-Films3 January 2018
    The Song of Sway Lake directed by Ari Gold is a « don't miss » film. First, the scenery and the lake are stunning. The colors can be warm and bright. The lake is also wonderful because there is a lot of history going through the past and it looks like it's alive! If you turn the lights off you feel like being part of the movie and you totally forget where you really are. Good feeling!

    The actors, mainly Mary Peth Peil, Rory Culkin and Robert Sheehan are very talented. They are all different but also connected by a common point: a great nostalgia they all have but with different points of view. They are very interesting. The talent of these actors is great and allows us to love each character with his or her own personality.

    And then there's the music. It was written by Ethan Gold. It cradles you and goes perfectly with the film.

    I'd like to add that the film has already won an award at the Laughlin International Film Festival, another one for the Best Picture at Vancouver Golden Panda International Film Festival and a third one for winning the « Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature » at the Seneca Film Festival. Robert Sheehan has also won an award for the Best actor at Laughlin International Film Festival and Mary Beth Peil for the Best actress at Vancouver Golden Panda International Film Festival. It's well deserved because The Song of Sway Lake is superb! Congratulations to Ari Gold and to everybody who worked for the film!
  • The Song of Sway Lake is a magical film. It starts out as what seems to be an entertaining story about the unique friendship between Ollie (an excellent Rory Culkin) and Nikolai (equally great Robert Sheehan). But throughout the film it becomes much more than that. A deeply moving story about loss, love, aging, and living in the past. It makes you think about your own relationship to your past, presence and future in ways you never felt before.

    The cinematography is stunning and the acting superb. Ari Gold created a unique ensemble cast portraying characters that feel almost painfully real because they are so relatable. Rory Culkin, Robert Sheehan, Mary Beth Peil and the wonderful Elizabeth Pena excel in their roles and touch you so deeply it leaves an impact on you far after the movie has ended.

    Go see this film, it is one of a kind, a true gem!
  • The Song of Sway Lake is a film written by Ari Gold and Elizabeth Bull and directed by Ari Gold. It's a beautiful, moving film which has to be seen. There are lots of powerful feelings, an amazing performance from the actors, some stunning landscapes and incredible musics. It's impossible not loving it and not being touched.

    After his father's suicide, a young record collector named Ollie Sway (played by Rory Culkin) returns to the family lake house with his Russian friend Nikolai (Played by Robert Sheehan) to steal a precious record. One day, an unexpected visit from Ollie's grandmother Charlie Sway(Played by Mary Beth Peil) disturbs their search.

    The Song of Sway Lake is full of nostalgia. Everyone is looking backward, but with a different view. Charlie is like stuck in the past. Mary Beth Peil managed to bring all the sensibility into her character. She is superb and intriguing. Ollie brings the dark nostalgia for things he's never experienced from the past generations. Rory Culkin was perfect to make this. He can bring the pain but he keeps it into himself. He's quiet and thinks a lot.

    An interesting character is also Nikolai played by Robert Sheehan. He's someone very specific and a bit uncomfortable. He has lots of charm and looks to be perfect. But we can also feel some suspicion against him. Robert Sheehan managed this so incredibly, with an amazing performance.

    The landscapes and the lake are stunning. The colours can be warm to reflect the beautiful nostalgia, dreams and melancholy of Charlie. But Colours can also be dark to show the dark side of Ollie's nostalgia. The music is a big part of the film. It makes the Sway lake place as a dream, full of elements from the past. It also shows the big connection with the music of Ollie and his father.

    The Song of Sway Lake is a film we can revisit because there are lots of messages. It's also very interesting to work on the story, the place, the lake and the characters which are all hiding secrets from the past shown from different angles because of the three differents generations. Ari Gold put all his talent into this film and the result is amazing! It's a wonderful movie which has to be shared and seen!
  • Sway Lake and summer go together like sun and hammocks .. or martinis and olives. Ari Gold's The Song of Sway Lake was actually released on June 21, the first day of summer! Location? A swanky lake house in the Adirondacks -- a dazzling paradise for swell-egant parties of the New York jazz-age upper crust.

    Sway. It's not a common word but it conjures up sensual images of hips, dancing, bourbon and Gershwin. It could mean swing, undulate, guide, persuade. From the opening, rather erotic, underwater scene, The Song of Sway Lake blends the dreamy and the realistic, the mystical and the practical, blurring the lines between the ephemeral and the concrete, the past and the now. The first plunge into the lake is both a dip into misty memory and a crisp splash to erase it.

    The cinematic period piece makes the viewer feel as if he/she is floating back in time...hearing the silver tones of Ethan Gold's mesmerizing melody, crooned by both John Grant and the Staves (Andrews Sisters reincarnated) is almost like being drawn in by the Sirens -- only we're not in Ancient Greece. We're not even in the 1940's. We're back in the 1990's...but completely sweetened by reminiscence.

    In fact, reminiscence permeates the film, from plot to soundtrack. From the opening montage, one feels the pull (dare I say sway) of a time gone by, hovering in a '40's haze. Ethan's music is as haunting as the film - it's a blend of misty and crisp. Cole Porter or Ethan Gold ? The soundtrack title song wafts through the film with charcoal smokiness. I truly can't get the Song of Sway Lake melody out of my head -- nor do I want to. It's totally addictive and liquid like the lake, yet solid like a long-lasting sliver of art, rock or humanity.

    As I see it, there are two types of people: those who are nostalgic and those who aren't. Proust nailed it with his Madeleine moment. With Song of Sway Lake, filmmaker Ari gold and twin brother, composer Ethan Gold appear to be members of the former club. A maestro of cinema, Ari paints the screen with wide, elegant brushstrokes of memory, sprinkled with speckles of here-and-now.

    Plot? Jazz music collector Ollie Sway (the soul-searching, fiery Rory Culkin), grandson of Charlie (divinely timeless, elegant Mary Beth Peil), the owner of the magical house on Sway Lake, is on a mission to find a valuable record -- the only pressed 78 recording of her wedding song. He enlists his rough-around-the-edges Russian drifter friend (charming Robert Sheehan) to help steal the record from his wealthy grandmother 's estate. There's even a rather enchanting if offbeat, romantic seesaw sway between Charlie and her grandson's comrade. Theme? The tug between grasping tidbits of our past, archiving our detailed lives vs. letting go, living in the present. Style? Eric Rohmer meets Wes Anderson.

    The Brazilians think that melancholy and bliss are connected. Perhaps the Gold brothers are part Brazilian --the translucent lake scintillates with the fragility of life and the permanence of death -- the fascination with murkiness and fear of finality.

    Ultimately, Song of Sway Lake glistens. Like our lives, it is layered with dissonance and harmony, raw in texture. It is both evocative and haunting.
  • IndieLover822 December 2017
    Truly unique film. Evocative of a bygone era. Stunning scenery, beautifully shot and with standout performances from Rory Culkin, Robert Sheehan and Mary Beth Peil. The music by Ethan Gold is brilliant and the whole film, directed by Ari Gold is an indie masterpiece. Currently screening on the Festival circuit. Try and catch it and spread the word! You will not be disappointed!
  • Saw this film recently and found it mesmerizing! The scenery is spectacular , the acting by Rory Culkin, Robert Sheehan & Mary Beth Peil is superb and the music by Ethan Gold is very evocative of a bygone era!

    This film is currently on the festival circuit. See it if you can. Deserves a wide cinema release. Makes a change from all the action films. Beautifully observed work. The director Ari Gold deserves praise for the quality of the film. Simply stunning.

    No spoilers here but if you like to be entertained without loud music and like a genuinely heart- felt story you will love this! 10/10 Must See!
  • In 1992, Ollie (Rory Culkin) and his Russian friend Nikolai (Robert Sheehan) travel to Sway Lake and stay at the Ollie's family state where they hope to find a long lost Vinyl record of great value. Ollie is somewhat of a loser while Nikolai is a live-wire. The search for the long lost record is complicated by the arrival of Ollie's grandmother Charlie (Mary Beth Peil) who has fallen on hard times and hopes to sell the state. But she too wants to find the record that was specifically made by a swing vocalist for her wedding day back in post-WW2 times.

    THE SONG OF SWAY LAKE is directed by Ari Gold as a coming of age story for our two young pals in search of a unique vinyl record. It's also about legacy and what it means to leave something behind to be remembered. Ollie's grandfather was a war hero, and the Lake is name after him (Sway being the family name) as well as that record being specifically recorder for his grandfather on his wedding day, this record was going to have value someday and it was left at the state for future generations of the Sway family to find. However, the value given to it will depend of those who find it; it can either be monetary or it can be deeper than that. Ollie believes the record is rightfully his, while his friend Nikolai may have his own plans for the record, as he seduces (perhaps honestly) Charlie, despite being thrice his senior.

    THE SONG OF SWAY LAKE is hard to label, and therefore its value is that it's an unconventional story that avoids a formula, it tells its story like a recount of someone's memories, an anecdote rather than a by the numbers script, which makes it and its characters feel real as we witness the story of two generations of the Sway family. It's a drama and a comedy, sometimes even a tragedy. In many ways this is closer to real life, where there are moments of levity followed by moments of anguish.

    Review by Enrrico Wood Lagonigro –Senior Curator Oaxaca FilmFest