Lovesong, a new film from Korean-American director So Yong Kim, explores the complexities of muted desire between two longtime friends.
Sarah, played by Riley Keough, is married to a man who is never home, and has a daughter. Mindy, played by Jena Malone, is a free spirit who seems to know exactly how to coax Sarah out of safety.
One day, Mindy persuades her friend to take off on a road trip. There is a sense that there's more than just friendship between the two, but the feelings remain subtly subterranean.
The film jolts the audience with an abrupt end to the road trip and we see the two characters three years later, when Sarah is attending Mindy's wedding. It is there that Sarah finally confronts her feelings about her friend.
If their relationship is not made completely clear — are they friends, are they lovers, are they friends who might want to be lovers — that's on purpose.
‘In, out of love’
Director Kim — known for her Korean language films In Between Days and Treeless Mountain — said she wanted to explore the evolving dynamics between the characters.
"I love love stories and I wanted to explore an area that's unusual, you know?” Kim said. “And I wanted to tell dynamics between two friends who are women and they're not necessarily, you know, one sexual preference over the other. I just wanted them to explore what their relationship could be and then fall in love, fall out of love and then try to navigate that."
Keough — best known for being Elvis Presley's granddaughter, as well as her film work in The Runaways, Magic Mike, and Mad Max: Fury Road — said she enjoys working with Kim, particularly on character-driven stories like Lovesong.
"I worked with her on a short film we did called Spark and Light and I worked with her husband [Bradley Rust Gray] on this film Jack and Diane, so we've done, this is the third thing I've done with them and we're kind of really close,” Keough said.
“They like to do things with people they've worked with before and shoot very intimately out of their house,” she said, “and I stayed in their garage and that's kind of how I like doing things and they do, too. When you find people you like working with, you kind of, I think, just keep working with them."
‘Embrace all things human’
The film is entered in the drama category at the Sundance Film Festival. It comes at a time when the Academy of Dramatic Arts is facing criticism for a lack of diversity in the Oscar nominees.
Malone says that Hollywood is reflecting a societal problem, and only when society changes will filmmaking change.
“So it's more like we all have to come together and change before, you know, we can't just kind of put filmmakers up in some golden box somewhere,” Malone said. “They exist because we put them there. We need to tell different kinds of stories. We need to evolve as a society and I think that's more important than being, 'Oh, we have to embrace all things female.' It's like, 'No, we have to embrace all things human and once we do that it's not going to matter whether it's man or woman or black or white, you know?"
Lovesong also stars Rosanna Arquette as Mindy's estranged mother. Brooklyn Decker stars as a selfish maid-of-honor and Ryan Eggold stars as Mindy's fiancé, Leif.