Song to Song

It had to be you and you: Rooney takes Ryan for a ride
6/10 - Terrence Malick’s film is visually arresting but at times confusing and lacks much-needed context to understand the characters motivations.
Release Date: 
Friday, July 7, 2017
Written by: 

Musician Faye (Rooney Mara) is drawn to both songwriter BV (Ryan Gosling) and manipulative music mogul Cook (Michael Fassbender), in this tale of two intersecting love triangles.


Song to Song sees aspiring musician Rooney Mara caught between two men, Michael Fassbender's music mogul and his latest discovery, a singer-songwriter played by La La Land star Ryan Gosling in film auteur Terrence Malick's latest opus.

Mara is a Jill of all trades to the wealthy music mogul while waiting for her big break. She's a house-sitter and dog-walker who also appears to be in a Svengali style relationship with wealthy executive Cook (his name isn’t revealed until the end of the movie) until she meets the handsome BV (Gosling) at one of the music boss' parties.

The relationship is revealed through vignettes of the actors grinning while rolling in the grass, pressing themselves against windows, or tickling each other while driving. However, perhaps fearing that it could affect her music career, she continues to see Cook as well.

Filmed entirely in Austin against the backdrop of the city’s music festivals, Song to Song features Malick's signature free-flowing visual style meaning at times it's very hard to pin down the deliberately non-linear narrative. An almost unrecognisable Natalie Portman appears as a waitress who becomes involved with Mara's lover Fassbender, and Cate Blanchett and Berenice Marlohe also star as the film’s leads get involved with new people, causing tension for the intersecting love triangles.

If you've not seen a Malick movie before, like Tree of Life or Knight of Cups, then be prepared to be thoroughly confused.

The chronology of events is a challenge to untangle as Mara’s character whips through several hairstyles, from pageboy to ponytail, and the characters flit between multiple homes, from Cook’s (Fassbender's) Hill Country estate outside Austin to the luxury apartment in a downtown skyscraper. Add to that the rented hotel rooms, privates jets and vacations in Mexico, at times the mind well and truly boggles - and you can’t rely on the dialogue to give you a helping hand.

Apart from film's title which is taken from something Faye says when she is in the first throes of love with BV, “We thought we could just roll and tumble, live from song to song, kiss to kiss", it gives very little clue as to context or the motivations of the handsome trio.

Outside of the love triangle, in Malick’s ensemble Portman has the biggest part, and shines despite her slender, almost dialogue-free role. But as you might expect for a movie which uses the music scene as its backdrop there are cameos aplenty from Iggy Pop, Flea, Lykke Li, and Patti Smith and even Val Kilmer playing an old rocker chainsawing an amp in front of a crowd.

On the plus side Song to Song is visually engaging and refreshingly free of the usual Hollywood conventions thanks to its freehand, performance-art style. However, when the character’s lives get more complex as Faye, BV and Cook fall into relationships with different people, that's when Malick's movie leaves you yearning for more context and (spoken) insight into the characters’ motivations.

Whether you're a fan of Malick from his Days of Heaven debut or a first-timer, Song to S

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