Cinema Review: The Killing of Two Lovers | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, June 17th, 2021  

The Killing of Two Lovers

Studio: Neon
Directed by Robert Machoian

May 12, 2021 Web Exclusive
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Just how small is David’s Utah town? So much so that, even in the midst of heated arguments with members of his crumbling family, he feels obligated to sunnily greet each passerby by name. Those extras rarely stray into The Killing of Two Lovers’ claustrophobically framed shots. The equally knotted cast of half a dozen is therefore frequently, and fittingly, foregrounded, as nose-to-nose with the audience as they are with each other while quareling over visitation, fidelity, and even graver matters.

So tense, to the point of fraying, is writer-director Robert Machoian’s domestic drama that it often borders on a thriller. This is especially true of the opening scene. In it, protagonist David (Clayne Crawford, of the tragically underrated southern gothic series Rectify comes close to living up to the movie’s grisly title. Later, his galled yet taut upper lipped expression is a testament to Crawford’s nuance, as David contends with losing his estranged wife Nikki to another man. Equally gifted TV talent complete that love triangle. Both of them are veterans of David Simon’s The Deuce: Seopideh Moafi as the smoldering, law-school yearning, curly-locked-brunette Nikki, and Chris Coy as python-slippery interloper Derek. Up-and-comer Avery Pizzuto is just as compelling as Nikki and David’s teenage daughter Jess, who is enraged at her separated parents. Machoian astutely offsets the movie’s suspenseful confrontations with melancholy scenes between David, Jess and the trio of sons that bring him so much joy, but were no doubt a challenge to juggle even before he and Nikki reached the cusp of divorce.

And when Machoian deftly contrasts the tighter framed shots with panoramas of these characters’ roadside clashes, the director viscerally captures Utah’s plains, which gape as wide as David and Nikki’s serrated hearts. All that and more make The Killing of Two Lovers as pulse pounding as it is heart wrenching. No wonder it was such a hit with critics at Sundance. Hopefully those reviewers — and you yourself — watched it solo, sans spouses.

Author rating: 8/10

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