The Killing of Two Lovers (2020 – dir. Robert Machoian): Philadelphia Film Festival review

Clayne Crawford appears in The Killing of Two Lovers by Robert Machoian. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Oscar Ignacio Jiminez.

This is one of those “the less you know, the better” movies, not because anything so surprising happens that you wouldn’t want to be spoiled, but because it is a very deliberately paced little thriller, with big and small moments that defy stereotypical application. This is a quiet movie, except when it isn’t, that keeps things at a rolling boil for the entirety of its 85 minutes, not a single one of which is wasted.

David (Clayne Crawford) and his wife Nikki (Sepideh Moafi) are attempting a trial separation. They got married right out of high school, and since that time have produced four children. Their three young boys seem mostly unaffected by this split, but their daughter, eldest of the children, is not taking it well. At the same time, Nikki is already seeing someone else, albeit casually. David wants to keep his cool as best as he can, since he knows that it’s an uphill battle for fathers during a split, but he hopes it won’t come to litigation. He and Nikki seem to both be acting in good faith when they say that their ultimate goal is to remain together. But these things are always easier said than done.

Sharp photography of a starkly beautiful landscape drives home the closed system that is David and Nikki’s town. It’s a place where secrets aren’t kept, lover’s quarrels are public knowledge, and someone shooting a gun in their backyard is not at all out of place. Sure, it’s a quiet little place, but it’s also a powder keg set to explode at any moment. The Killing of Two Lovers is an exercise in watching the sparks dance around said keg, and wondering if maybe, just maybe, an explosion could be the best solution…

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