Sundance 2022: A Love Song Review

Dale Dickey and West Studi are among the finest character actors of their generation. It’s therefore hard to fault a film like A Love Song for giving them such fine roles, even if the resulting picture leaves something to be desired. But it’s also hard to praise a film that rests on the shoulders of its actors alone—even when Dickey is tasked with carrying many scenes without so much as a word to say. A Love Song is a modest, lean, and unfussy work. Nothing gets in the way of these two fine performances, but one wishes this unconventional western offered a stronger story to keep one along for the ride.

Dickey plays Faye, a weathered old soul who has planted her camper by the lake. She catches crawfish day after day. She listens to old songs on her trusty radio as she noshes on crawfish boils for supper. When people pass by the campsite, she tells them she’s waiting for someone. Faye doesn’t know when, or if, her visitor will call. All she can do is sit in hopeful anticipation and bask in the golden glow of the rising and setting sun.

This sparse feature debut for Max Walker-Silverman may invite comparisons to Nomadland with its tale of an aging camper who basks in the summer light. The fondness for magic hour cinematography, moreover, offers nods to Chloé Zhao and her own Malickian inspiration. However, a beautiful sunset and a seasoned face to reflect its warming hue can only carry a film so far. A Love Song simply struggles with its aimless story, or lack thereof, that mutes the payoff one longs for by the film’s end.

A Strained Production

The simple production strains under its limitations. A Love Song has the telltale signs of being a low-to-no budget effort shot during COVID. The pandemic has obviously created challenging circumstances for filmmakers, but unfortunately the trend of films carried by one or two performers is already wearing thin. Similarly, the drama mostly takes place outside with the actors spaced a socially-distanced six feet apart. The awkward separation serves as much to pad the running time as it does to keep everyone safe. Strangers do stumble through Faye’s campsite, like the Indigenous family that wants to dig up a corpse they buried directly where Faye parked her trailer, but even such basic interactions strain credibility as one speaker hustles between the group and Faye. As the actors stand rigidly still and safely apart, the staging leaves many of the supporting performances stilted. There’s a lot of dead air.


Even when Studi’s Lito shows up at the campsite, the pair maintains more distance between them than two seventh graders swaying stiffly and chastely at a school dance. When Lito and Faye finally find their groove, the sparks seem to fizzle as soon as they’ve ignited. On one hand, the dynamic reflects the tension and longing of their own relationship. On the other, it reveals how even great actors need some meat to connect a few moments of excellent chemistry. As two performers who know the power of a good close-up though, Dickie and Studi capably rise to the occasion.

A Love Song premiered at Sundance 2022. Head here for more from this year’s festival.