Review: The Song of Sway Lake (Los Angeles Film Festival)


Title: The Song of Sway Lake 
Rating: R
Director: Ari Gold
Starring: Rory Culkin, Robert Sheehan, Isabelle McNally, Mary Beth Peil
: 1 hr 40 mins

What It Is: Ollie Sway (Culkin) travels with his charming Russian companion Nikoli (Sheehan) to the Sway family estate to steal the titular record. On the way, he meets and develops a crush on a purple-haired girl called Isadora (McNally) and copes with the death of his music-loving father to suicide.

What We Think: Right off the bat, this one is sort of hard to read. It keeps that way—swinging from being poetic and ambient and moody to quirky, somewhat sunny scenes about the characters’ relationships. Putting the tonal confusion aside, it sticks out and is inviting in its nostalgic summer-at-the docks/oldies-record-loving aesthetic, its strength in the comforting and scenic cinematography and bright, summery (but not overwhelming) palette. Despite many flat or even strange story decisions (cliche/awkward love story, anyone?), there are moments of entertainment through the behavior of our characters. Not necessarily memorable moments, but serviceable to where I could call them justified. Rory Culkin does wonderfully in a role as a quiet protagonist going through the motions. That would be the film at its most enjoyable, or even effective, as everything else fades into a blur.

Our Grade: D+, This was a tough call. The pieces are all here, but in the end, this won’t be a film that I’ll be able to recall too clearly in the future. The plot is sprawled out and unrewarding, leaving it difficult for me to pay full attention all throughout. Much of the resolutions and events that occurred felt familiar to dramas of a similar nature. I watched feeling dully puzzled, trying to figure out what big or profound idea this movie was trying to achieve; I was left feeling empty-handed.

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