The Killing of Two Lovers REVIEW – Provocative & Heartbreaking

The Killing of Two Lovers is an authentic look at marriage and separation.

The Killing of Two Lovers
The Killing of Two Lovers

2021 has been a meh year for movies so far – The Little Things failed to impress, Cherry went in bizarre directions and Mortal Kombat was okay instead of a flawless victory. With everyone still playing the waiting game when it comes to movie releases, and film productions delayed due to the ongoing pandemic, it’s inevitable that this would be the state of things. The slight upside is that the indie scene has received more attention of late, with films like The Assistant, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Sound of Metal and Minari being among the most frequently discussed films of 2020.

Robert Machoian’s indie film The Killing of Two Lovers premiered at Sundance in 2020, and was subsequently picked up by Neon for distribution this year. It is one of my favourite films of the year thus far, and I hope it gets more eyes on it after its release, because it’s what this film absolutely deserves.

The Killing of Two Lovers opens on a shocking, provocative moment, with Clayne Crawford’s David pointing a gun at his wife Nikki (Sepideh Moafi) and her lover Derek (Chris Coy) while they sleep, the two completely oblivious to what could very well be their last moments. A flushed toilet jolts David to his senses, as he realises that his children are also in the house, and would be privy to the fallout of his actions. He makes a quick escape, running to the safety of his father’s house nearby, where he has been living temporarily as he and Nikki work out their differences.

Machoian here creates the essence of Chekhov’s smoking gun basically – since a gun has been introduced, we then wait on tenterhooks of the gun being used at some point in the movie. This drives and contributes to the tension within the film, as we wonder which moment will be David’s breaking point – when will he be pushed so deep into emotional devastation that he will bring out the gun to destroy everything in his path?

David and Nikki are separated, and as part of their separation, they’ve agreed that they’re allowed to see other people. But it becomes clear that David only agreed to this because he thought the separation would be temporary, and with every conversation the two share, it appears that Nikki is leaning closer to divorce. It isn’t an easy situation for all involved, especially since the pair share four children together. Of the four children, their oldest daughter Jess (Avery Pizzuto) is the most affected. She is upset that her mom has started seeing another man, and pleads with David to fight for them, otherwise he might lose them.

These moments between the two are so heartbreakingly real, since David tries his best to put on a show for his three boys, who are younger and easier to distract, but the conversations with Jess brings him back to the reality of things. He’s losing his grasp on his family, and while he’s trying his best, it may not be enough.

Crawford makes it easy for us to sympathize with David, and the film’s most excruciating moments are just of him on his own, as he pounds away at the mannequin in his room, hurling all his frustrations onto it in order to exorcise his anger in some way. He is also great in the lighter moments, as he banters with his three sons on the way to school, or on a play date with them in the park. However, it is the vulnerable moments that stay with us, and Machoian close-up shots of Crawford’s face allow us to privy to every single emotion his character is feeling.

The sound design is excellent, the interplay between agonising silence and the use of car sounds to reflect David’s inner emotions allowing us to feel every moment of the film. I have never been so caught up in every single frame of a film (kudos to DP Oscar Ignacio Jiménez for absolutely delivering on the visuals), yet wanting it to progress so I could see how it all plays out. I had certain expectations with regard to the narrative and the outcome, but the film managed to subvert every single one of them — in a good way, of course.

It remains to be seen if The Killing of Two Lovers stay as one of my top films of the year, but even if it doesn’t, it sure is unforgettable.

Review screener provided.

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The Killing of Two Lovers
The Killing of Two Lovers is flawless in so many ways; the poignant acting, the brilliant sound design, with a narrative so crisp and succinct that not a single moment is wasted.