Dale Dickey appears in A Love Song by Max Walker-Silverman, an official selection of the NEXT section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Alfonso Herrera Salcedo.

Sundance Film Festival 2022 Review: A Love Song ★★★★

Max Walker-Silverman’s debut feature A Love Song pairs delicate emotion with grandiose landscapes in this meditation on grief, regret and loneliness. An introspective career best performance from character actress Dale Dickey furthers A Love Song’s ability to tug at the heartstrings in this naturalistic character piece.

Pitching her camper down by lakeside mountains, widowed Faye (Dickey) begins to settle in her isolated surroundings – listening to her wireless radio, catching crawfish, and admiring the rural scenery. Yet she waits patiently for the arrival of a childhood sweetheart Lito (Wes Studi) – someone who she has not seen in decades. Upon his arrival, Faye finds common ground with Lito in their shared feelings of loss and regret whilst bonding and growing closer.

A Love Song opens capturing flowers growing through the harsh rocky ground, a perfect metaphor for the sense of hope prevailing through tough times and hardship that courses throughout, whilst also being reflective of the film’s hypnotising rural beauty. The Colorado filming location becomes as much a character of the film as the talented cast thanks to backdrops of imposing mountains and great expanse of lake, strikingly captured by Director of Photography Alfonso Herrera Salcedo. The magnitude of this landscape highlights the lingering sense of isolation faced by our widowed protagonists, with Faye’s tiny camper near devoured by the spectacular landscape of mountains and water. The picturesque emptiness of this setting only further highlights Faye’s feelings of loneliness as she sits expectantly waiting the arrival of Lito.

There is a sense of timelessness about A Love Song, something mirrored in Faye’s random pin-pointing of any date on the calendar. Dates are meaningless to her and this near-mythical dusty structural landscape which she inhabits only furthers the feelings of isolation and naturalism that Walker-Silverman packs into the feature. The sounds of nature from water trickling to bird calls fill this largely quiet expanse, whilst Faye’s neighbours provide some small social interactions for her whilst also giving the film a somewhat surreal tinge. A troupe of cowboys and a young girl provide some oddball comic relief whilst a middle aged loved-up couple captures the love that Faye once had and once again longs for.

Dale Dickey and Wes Studi in ‘A Love Song.’ COURTESY OF SUNDANCE INSTITUTE/ALFONSO HERRERA SALCEDO.

A Love Song impressively keeps its cards somewhat close to its chest, spending its first act observing Faye’s quiet contented routines, with her only revealing who she is waiting on whilst have dinner with fellow campers. Dialogue is used sparingly which is a testament to Dickey’s emotionally complex and expressive performance. The actress excels in capturing a quiet yet resilient presence – Faye is a character that rarely gets to take centre stage in cinema – she’s an outsider to the mainstream: complex, caring, and bruised but fights on with a sense of hope. This sense of hope ignites with the arrival of Lito and the pair bonding through childhood stories, guitar practising (a sing-song of Be Kind to Me is one of the film’s highlights), and their shared pain as widowers.

There’s a chemistry between Lito and Faye that gently simmers albeit clouded by the confusion and pain of moving on after bereavement. In exploring the challenges of moving on, Walker-Silverman crafts a tale with far more depth than two heartbroken souls simply reconnecting and finding love – adding into the mix past regrets and the shadow of loss. Within this A Love Song captures some magnificently poignant moments such as Faye being photographed for the first time in seven years or the blending of cosmic grandeur with grounded emotion as an emotional Faye views star constellations atop the peak of a hill.

Through their rich performances Dale Dickey and Wes Studi convey a sense of finely-tuned emotion through expression, movements or glances between one another showcasing their skills as creatives. These moments of rawness are often heightened by well-pitched musical choices such as The Way You Smile by Blaze Foley or Valerie June’s beautifully woozy Slip on Side By.

By putting grounded emotion in locations brimming with evocative magnitude, A Love Song shines as an absorbing naturalistic glimpse at moving on from heartbreak and grief. Dale Dickey beautifully channels a complex tableau of sentiments in Max Walker-Silverman’s poignant debut.

A Love Song plays as part of the Sundance Film Festival 2022. It can be watched at Festival.Sundance.org. Find ticket details here.