Although it has no CGI effects (or stirring orchestral music for that matter) to signal this, “A Love Song,” the debut feature from Max Walker-Silverman, takes place in a history book America. That is, an America where threats and intimidation are absent, where people get along in an easy, deliberate, practically oblique way. Set in Colorado, in the middle of a very sparsely populated and mostly peaceful campground, it offers a life of few means and simple pleasures, a life that reveals a thoroughly bittersweet nature as time passes.
We see its central character, Faye, from behind in the first few minutes. She gets out of a modest trailer hitched to a pickup to take a basket that has caught a few crawfish in the lake nearby. She switches on an old transistor radio – the Longines Symphonette logo is still intact – and turns the dial. (Usually a well-curated bit of Americana emerges.) Dale Dickeythe seasoned character actor who plays the part has a lined face that speaks of hard years behind him.
Faye goes about her day with patience, but it’s clear she’s waiting for someone or something. When she opens a calendar, she closes her eyes, circles it with a magic marker, and when she puts it down on a certain date, she writes in its square “Today”.
Before long, a little girl with a quarter of cowhands in tow comes by and asks if Faye can move her trailer. It seems that the patriarch of her family is buried somewhere there, and they want to dig him up and rebury him somewhere where the view does not include a newly created oil rig, the only visible blob on the landscape. Faye politely says that she is waiting for a visitor to come to this very place. The group accepts this and is well on its way.
Faye also accepts a dinner invitation from a couple played by Benjamin K. Thomas and Michelle Wilson, who has Faye over at their nearby campsite and regales her with the story of their consistently postponed engagement, which should have been proposed a few national parks ago on their road trip. Faye clearly envies the couple’s alliance.
Just as Faye prepares to hit the road, “Today” happens. In the form of Lito, played by Wes Studio. He is about as discreet a person as Faye, which is to say not at all. Nevertheless, their warm but brief conversations fill in parts of their backstory and reveal Faye as recently widowed. Lito and Faye go back a long way – they reminisce about elementary school adventures – but it is not clear if they were ever lovers. This appointment was apparently made with a perhaps tacit understanding that the possibility would be explored.
They fall into an almost immediately pleasant exchange, mostly through music. Faye explains her radio to Lito: Wherever you turn the dial, wherever you land, it will play the perfect song. With his electric guitar, Lito teaches Faye the Michael Hurley song “Be Kind to Me,” and subsequent scenes depict the couple belting out the song with Lito’s quiet, friendly dog.
And that is how it is. “A Love Song” is a companion film to sit through. It is well photographed, discreetly edited, full of wonderful sights and played by a couple of masters of hot underplay. One of its final lines is “We’ll be okay,” and the film seems to believe that this might be true if we can afford to live as uncomplicated a life as Lito and Faye do. I’m not sure I believe it myself anymore. If I did, I might have been more moved by this thoroughly decent picture.
Now playing in select theaters.