LoveTrue

Review by Aimee Knight

Directed by

Alma Har’el

Starring

Abraham Boyd Angel Boyd Harmony Boyd

Anticipation.

An effervescent essay looking at love through a kaleidoscope.

Enjoyment.

High on its own supply of blurred (non)fiction lines.

In Retrospect.

Better suited to Vimeo Staff Picks than brick + mortar cinemas.

Bombay Beach director Alma Har’el serves up an intriguing painted poem of a film.

“I wish we could make a movie only about good things,” laments Will Hunt (code name: Coconut Willie). A lovelorn surfer and single father, he’s one of three characters – it’s fair to call them that – in this hybrid documentary by Bombay Beach director Alma Har’el. Traversing the notion of love in all its colours, shades and shapes, LoveTrue is less of an essay film and more like a painted poem. With its opening riff on a passage from Corinthians lilting over wistful imagery, it’s clear from right out of the gate that this is an exercise in style as much as substance.

Willie is your basic young man, living the simple Hawaiian life of a coconut water vendor, doing his darndest to raise his baby right. In Alaska, Warhammer fan Blake was “born a nerd,” but now must balance a relationship with her boyfriend and her job as an exotic dancer. Victory lives in New York with her large family, save her mum who has seemingly deserted the prodigious singer, along with her siblings and their father. Despite the disparate locations, each of Har’el’s subjects has been touched by the universal experiences of love, faith and hope.

The documentary grapples with love’s many guises: romantic, parental, religious, vocational. It also depicts the heart’s darker repercussions, such as Willie’s latent inclination toward violence, Blake’s tight grip on childhood trauma, and Victory’s blindness to her father’s abusive tendencies. Curiously, platonic love is not examined. Though Will, Blake and Victory are all young adults, they appear to be loners, lacking in close social ties.

Rather, their family relationships are a focal point for Har’el. Love’s evil stepsisters Hate, Fear and Depression manifest in the film via divorce, bullying, loneliness, and the enduring consequences of separating children from their parents. Intimate observational and interview sequences reveal the characters’ passions, while dreamlike (sometimes nightmarish) dramatisations bring deep-seated anxieties to life.

This film is aesthetically stunning, as per Har’el’s reputation (she’s been lauded by MTV, She eld Doc/ Fest, The Independent Spirit Awards and others). But eventually the recreations become brazen and lose gravitas. Using subtitles in place of conventional voiceover is novel but obfuscating, and makes it even harder to sympathise with characters that aren’t entirely likeable. Y’know, like people in the real world, such as LoveTrue’s executive producer Shia LaBeouf.

As director, producer, cinematographer and editor, Har’el has a singular vision. Fascinated by performance, she casts actors and family members in fantastical scenes. Victory’s father improvises with actress Chineze Enekwechi, who plays his estranged wife and eventually visits her ‘real life’ counterpart. Merging fact, fiction and imagined narratives may be en vogue (see also: Taxi Tehran, Kate Plays Christine) but here it feels forced and affected. Smoke-and-mirror trickery does not compensate for dull subjects with uncompelling arcs.

Is it imperative for screen characters to always be amiable? Not at all. But in a film about love, it sure wouldn’t hurt. “I’m not unique. I’m a human being,” confesses Will Hunt. Like Blake and Victory, he needs to learn to love himself before he can be loved by others unconditionally.

Published 10 Feb 2017

Tags: Alma Har’el

Anticipation.

An effervescent essay looking at love through a kaleidoscope.

Enjoyment.

High on its own supply of blurred (non)fiction lines.

In Retrospect.

Better suited to Vimeo Staff Picks than brick + mortar cinemas.

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