Sundance 2022: Opening Night- “A Love Song”

Wes Studi is a national treasure. His presence has always been strong and throughout his 34-year career, the actor has given us many award-worthy performances. Studi has a naturalistic style that finds him moving gracefully from character to character, always cementing his mark with powerful and moving performances. “A Love Song” proves once again that Wes Studi is one of our finest living actors.

Writer/director Max Walker-Silverman gifts the festival with a true opening night treasure. A film that speaks to loss and distance, need and love.

“A Love Song” finds Lito (Studi) and Faye (the always wonderful Dale Dickey), two childhood sweethearts who find one another again after many years, as they bond together, both nestled in the comforting arms of the Colorado mountains.

Lito and Faye are now widowed and move through their late lives with the burden of loneliness and grief.

Faye spends her time in the sun-drenched land communing with nature and listening to the birds. She catches and cooks crawfish from the freshwater lake and listens to her old one speaker radio. Any song that comes on will be the right one.

Faye is doing more than just passing time. She is waiting for her dear sweetheart from decades ago. Faye hopes Lito is coming. It has been so long she wonders what he looks like now. They knew one another when they were young but now the years have passed and she knows nothing about him, beyond the fact that he is a widower. All she knows is what Lito told her. He has “a small silver car and a big black dog.” Faye stays at campsite number 7, as she hopes that the lucky number will be just that.

Dale Dickey’s performance as Faye is transcendent, a deeply felt work that becomes something more than acting. She becomes the embodiment of the human condition. Faye worries about her looks, but Lori reassured her that she is beautiful. The smile that follows shows a comfort that the widow has not felt in many a moon. Dickey’s terrific work (truly, the soul of the film) is Oscar-worthy.

Lito does arrive and their first meeting after all this time brings a feeling of immediate peace and sincerity to the characters and to the film.

As the two discuss their memories of youth and dance around their loneliness, the film begins to flow soft like a trickling stream and the deep-rooted characterizations come through organically. For Faye and Lito, there are years of different paths between them, but it is the shared experience of loss and the memories of youth that connect their souls.

Wes Studi has never had such a soulful part to sink his talents into. The actor almost never gets the chance at a lead role, let alone one so grounded.  It is rare to see the actor this open and unguarded. Studi’s performance is pleasant, insightful, and down to Earth. Lito is a good man burdened by loss and the actor portrays him effortlessly.

Max Walker-Silberman’s screenplay pushes back against the norms of a film where two drifting souls find one another. His film is real. Life does not always go as planned. Happiness comes and goes, as do the people who touch us. Human connections are eternal, life is not. To navigate this is part of being human. Faye and Lito exist in this reality.

Cinematographer Alfonso Herrera Salcedo captures the beauty of the land while letting its vast skies represent the distance and loneliness of the characters. From starlit nights to mountain horizons, from wind-swept waters to the bluest of skies, this is a gorgeous film to behold. The landscapes are as important a character as Faye and Lito.

Written and directed by Max Walker-Silverman, Wes Studi and Dale Dickey are given a great canvas to build their respective characters together. The two actors do fantastic work here, both turning in the most natural performances of their respective careers. I could have listened to their intoxicating conversations for hours.

“A Love Song” is many things, but its greatest achievement lies in its purity.

This is a film full of beautiful and tender moments between two sweet souls and a work with a natural kindness and a beating heart.

A Love Song

Written and Directed by Max Walker-Silverman

Starring Dale Dickey, Wes Studi

NR, 81 Minutes, Cow Hip Films, Fit Via Vi Film Productions