The Killing of Two Lovers is a carefully crafted slow-burn character study that uses the familiar topic of a frail relationship as a vehicle to explore hard emotions in a realistic way.
The ending of a cavernous marriage is a scary and horrifying thing that many people go through, and they deal with it in different ways. Some people get frustrated or worried about the future of the relationship, and others try to find ways to fix what is doomed to be unfixable. The case with this slow-burn drama is that the main character has a mind like shattered glass, as the world dissolves before him.
A husband and wife, David (Clayne Crawford) and Nikki (Sepideh Moafi), are going through a tough time of transition and want to keep their relationship together. They agree to give each other some space to figure out what they want from life, in and out of the relationship. David, who is hotheaded and petrified of losing his family, goes along with the idea because he feels that it is the only thing that might keep them and their four kids together.
Many films deal with the slow decay of a relationship. The Killing of Two Lovers is not the best film to touch on that topic, but what makes it interesting is its delivery. Loneliness and frustration are all over the movie as David tries to figure out what comes next following the end of the relationship or what could be the thing that fixes it. Meanwhile, there is an underlying element of dread and self-hate that drains David into an existential and emotional state.
When that sense of dread hits David, the sound design comes into play; it is an essential aspect of the film. His inner thoughts and consciousness are defined by the sounds you hear throughout the film, mirroring what goes on in David’s head, sounding like the aching pressure of bending a piece of rusty metal and the hard closing of a car door while the wind brushes across his fragile psyche.
The characters feel real. The incidents that happen to them have been around forever; the loss of love, the need for space to figure things out, and the frustration it brings towards the partner who wants things to get better quickly occurs all the time. These characters feel so grounded and convincing due to the sharp writing by Machoian and the great performances by the leads, especially Clayne Crawford as David.
With only an eighty-four-minute runtime, Robert Machoian creates a pulsing character study of a man trying to get his family back together like it once was. This intimate yet haunting story may seem a bit familiar, but it has some tricks up its sleeve that keeps you engaged throughout its entirety. With intelligent use of exceptionally long takes, careful framing, gripping sound design, tremendous performances, and an alluring title that keeps you guessing, The Killing of Two Lovers explores the tough emotions of a decaying relationship realistically and compellingly.
Director Robert Machoian was nominated for the NEXT Innovator Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.