Powerful performances and surgical craft anchor Robert Machoian’s slow-burning thriller, acutely observing the collapse of a family and the breakdown of its patriarch with mounting dread and carefully ratcheted suspense.
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The finest American film about the collapse of a relationship since Manchester by the Sea, Robert Machoian’s striking The Killing of Two Lovers turned heads at last year’s Sundance festival.
Rural Utah father David (Clayne Crawford) is going through a trial separation from his wife Nikki (Sepideh Moafi), the mother of his four children. From the jump, it’s clear things aren’t going well: she’s seeing another man, his oldest child is rebelling, he’s unhappily living with his father. And he keeps a gun underneath the seat of his truck...
Machoian’s debut film as solo director displays an artist in firm control of his form. Carefully deploying style choices like jarring sound design and a 4×3 aspect ratio that leaves us feeling as boxed in as David, Machoian smartly but slowly ratchets up the tension for the audience, while lengthy takes evoke nerve-jangling festival favourites like A Separation (NZIFF 2011) and The Son (NZIFF 2002). From its hair-trigger opening to its pressure-cooker finale, The Killing of Two Lovers promises to be one of the tensest viewing experiences of this year’s festival. — Doug Dillaman
“A rural counterpart to Marriage Story that examines with piercing intimacy not the punishing process of divorce and its fallout but the equally agonising limbo of uncertainty when a punctured union skids along the edge of definitive blowout, The Killing of Two Lovers is a transfixing drama without a wasted word or a single inessential scene... Machoian has crafted a portrait of a marriage in crisis that’s quite distressing in its most blistering, brutal moments, yet also achingly tender at other times, receptive to the possibility of healing and always grounded in what feels like honest experience.” — David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter