TADFF 2011 – Love and The Weight of Emptiness

We unfortunately only had time to catch one film on the 4th day of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, which was the highly hyped and anticipated sci-fi epic Love. Before the feature played, we were treated with a lovely and somewhat dark French Canadian short The Weight of Emptiness. It’s a touching metaphor about letting go of our loved ones, wrapped around the semi-thriller supernatural story of the struggle of a mother and her son. A great peice to set the mood for the night, being both emotional and beautiful.

You can see a trailer for the short here.

Love itself was an absolutely beautiful waste of time. It has all the parts and potential to be a really amazing film, but as an overall experience is just a mess. The initial premise is great: the film centers around the supposed lone survivor of the apocalypse, Captain Lee Miller (played by Gunner Wright), as he struggles with loneliness aboard the International Space Station. It’s the setup for a perfect character sketch, but we are given no back story, no explanation and no real defining elements to ground ourselves in the story or the character. He’s just sort of there and lonely and does little to establish any connection with the audience. It’s a poorly written character and the majority of his screen time is just there to pad out the run time for the overzealous ending. As well, the film develops this potentially simple plot into an extremely convoluted and visibly shallow narrative, taking on way more than it can handle. The film splits itself up among three separate diegetic spaces. The first is the lone struggle of Miller aboard the ISS sometime in the mid-2030s. The second is the journey of a captain in the American Civil War, searching for some unknown object as documented by a journal Miller finds on the station. The third is a series of contemporary video interviews and montages about human interaction and loneliness which are somehow supposed to fit into Love’s excuse for an ending. Individually the tertiary narratives are actually very well composed and could on their own be polished shorts, but here they are just sort of jammed in with really no rhyme or reason. I’m not sure if its the fault of rushed editing or a poorly thought out script, but something is seriously amiss with the structuring of this film. In some ways it subtly pays homage to its influences, but mostly it just rips off better-written films (parallels to The FountainA.I. and 2001: A Space Odyssey are a bit blatant). Also the ending just outright sucks. I’m all for ambiguity but Love’s ending comes out of nowhere, for no reason and leaves us with nothing. It cheapens an already weak experience, leaving you with a bad impression when you leave the theater.

All that being said Love has some amazing moments. Visually the film is fairly mind-blowing with amazing sets, effects and lighting. The civil war scenes are particularly spectacular, almost turning powerful war imagery into still paintings with the use of slow-mo and great digital effects. William Eubank’s visual aesthetic is solid and the things that are pulled off with a minimal budget are extremely impressive. It really showcases what can happen when a skilled cinematographer gets to direct a film.

Unfortunately the film’s visual skill is not enough to make up for the rest, and at the end of the day it’s all superficial at best. Mainly it feels beautiful for the sake of being beautiful and it’s an empty experience I just can’t recommend, which is a shame because clearly a lot of hard work and heart went into it. Also the Angels and Airwaves score does little to impress, though it’s decent music.

You can see a trailer for Love here.

More coverage of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2011 coming soon, including the closing gala!

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