Review by Ale Turdó
Something wants us together.
Writer, actor, producer and first-time director Stephen Keep Mills takes us on a surreal and thought-provoking journey through the ups and downs of contemporary relationships, its roots and meanings in Love is Not Love.
Frank (Mills) is an elderly man trapped in what seems to be a crumbling relationship with his increasingly estranged wife, Paula. In the midst of a never ending break up, Frank meets Reyna, an interesting fling that seems to understand him and connect in a way he hasn’t with anyone in ages… but is this meant to last? Is love, in any of its many forms, meant to last at all?
Love is Not Love tries to answer this everlasting conundrum with a particular mix of Woody Allen’s vibe and a stripped flare for the theatrics, over a solemn black and white palette that concentrates all of our attention on the human drama in order to keep us from getting distracted with any other vain and superfluous stimulus.
The introductory New York scenario works as a first course that tries to set the rules for things to come. Different characters chatting, giving insights about what their take is on love and relationships. In spite of its short time on screen, the urban landscape instinctively becomes an extra player and not just plain and simple background for a parade of multicultural characters. People looking for love and affection, every day people lost in the labyrinth of their own traumas, fetishes and neurosis.
Once the timing is right, these multiple approaches clear the stage for Frank’s tribulations. The chronological order of the story challenges us as an audience, and sometimes it is simply up to us to determine what happens after what, or before. The non-linear structure favors the enigma behind Frank’s romantic misadventures. There is some wry humor scattered around, especially near the beginning and the end of the film which , if sustained evenly all across the story, might have given the whole thing a more dynamic and fresher outcome.
There is an interesting combination of techniques and visual motifs: theatrical interludes, ethereal recreations and intimate moments happening in daily spaces. Such spaces keep the surreal imagery from taking absolute control. They balance it all.
Most of the scenes work pretty much as a stage play, with two characters confronting in a minimalistic surrounding, with a hard light upon them, almost soliloquizing about their feelings and their take on the whole situation. It is as if Mills is trying his best to make amends between man’s and women’s psyche.
Saying that Love is Not Love plays like an essay on such feeling would be the ultimate understatement. It takes us on a metaphorical journey and makes a worthy effort trying to deeply understand, and express on film, human desires, temptations and its sometimes self-destructive nature.
Ale Turdó —Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Alejandro is a film critic and movie enthusiast that has been writing about movies for the past 7 years, covering everything from blockbusters to indie gems and all in between. He majored in Sound Design and Cinematography in college and is a full time digital content producer. He’s the kind of guy that thinks that even the worst movie can have something interesting to write about. Additionally, he writes for Escribiendo Cine and A Sala Llena. Twitter: @aleturdo and IG: @hoysalecine