Framed by soaring mountains and a gleaming lake somewhere in Southwestern Colorado, a woman (Dale Dickey), wiry and weathered, catches crayfish and waits in her small camper for a special someone to arrive. The woman is Faye and, like Lito (Wes Studi), the childhood friend she hopes will respond to her invitation, she is long widowed. Maybe he, too, is ready for some company.
Slow, sweet and subdued, “A Love Song,” Max Walker-Silverman’s lovely first feature, is about late-life longing and needs that never completely go away. Building solid characters from mere scraps of information (Faye was once a bush pilot, Lito a musician), the two leads embrace a screenplay (by the director) filled with long silences and searching close-ups. Plaintive country songs leak from Faye’s transistor radio as she studies bird species by day and the constellations by night — scenes that tell us this is not someone who is simply existing. She’s living and learning.
From time to time, diverting visitors wander into Faye’s campsite — friendly neighbors with a dinner invitation, Indigenous cowhands with an unusual request — their whimsical intrusions adding flavor to an unyieldingly spare story. We soon appreciate, though, that more than one kind of love is being celebrated in that title, including the director’s affection for his home state, its wide-open spaces and wandering souls. In Faye and Lito, Walker-Silverman is honoring a certain kind of Western archetype, resilient and unsinkable and untethered. This hardiness is echoed in the simplicity of Faye’s diet and daily routines, as much as in Alfonso Herrera Salcedo’s patient shots of flowering plants punching through parched earth.
Some of those flowers will be picked and proffered, ice cream will be eaten and remembrances shared before this gentle movie rests in the poignancy of a mourning dove’s call. What lingers, though, is a warmth that’s probably due, at least in part, to the director’s decision to surround himself with people he loves. (The cowhands are played by his four closest friends, and his former roommate, Ramzi Bashour, composed the film’s score.) The result is a tender, laconic look at a woman who rarely faces anything in life, including loneliness, without a strategy.
“There’s days and there’s nights, and I got a book for each,” she tells Lito, a declaration more heartbreaking than any monologue of lost love.
A Love Song
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 21 minutes. In theaters.