The Song of Sway Lake
dir Ari Gold
scr Ari Gold, Elizabeth Bull
prd Michael Bederman, Zak Kilberg, Allison Rose Carter, Ari Gold
with Rory Culkin, Robert Sheehan, Mary Beth Peil, Elizabeth Pena, Isabelle McNally, Jack Falahee, Anna Shields, Jason Brill, Keith Mueller, Bob Foley, Brian Dennehy, John Grant
release US 21.Sep.18
17/US 1h34
The Song of Sway Lake
Sitting on the dock of the lake: Culkin and Sheehan

peil pena falahee
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Song of Sway Lake An intriguingly offbeat drama, this film is beautifully shot and evocatively edited. Director Ari Gold adds a strong musical sensibility, connecting vintage-style tunes to the narrative to capture the sense of a century of memories that hover around an old house. The actors are excellent, but the cleverly crafted nostalgia isn't quite enough to grab the audience's imagination.

In the early 1990s, Ollie (Culkin) and his lively friend Nikolai (Sheehan) travel to Ollie's family retreat on Sway Lake determined to find the valuable record his recently deceased father (Brill) hid there. Ollie is haunted by his family history, including his father's suicide, and he becomes obsessed with the purple-haired Isadora (McNally), who lives across the lake. Then Grandma Charlie (Peil) arrives with family friend Marlena (Pena), encouraging Ollie and Nikolai to clean up the grounds for the sale rather than trashing everything.

The story is told with a swirl of memories depicting Ollie's thoughts and feelings, as if the ghosts of previous generations are haunting him here. The script meanders through the plot, focussing on a series of encounters in which nothing particularly notable happens. The central idea is that Ollie is searching for this legendary record as a way of connecting with a father he never understood, while Charlie merely wants to sell it, as an act of either revenge or grief. Or both.

There's a strong contrast between the moody Ollie and the high-energy, often naked Nikolai, so it's difficult to imagine them being such close friends. Although Sheehan's performance is so entertaining that almost anyone would want to be around him. Both actors are excellent as young men who different views of the American dream: Ollie has it and Nikolai wants it. And Peil brings depth to the aloof, sometimes cruel Charlie, who sees in the irresponsible Nikolai a reflection of her husband (Dennehy in voiceover).

Essentially, this is about how a wealthy family's indulgences over three generations come back to haunt them. But the storytelling never quite coalesces, and the movie remains a series of pointed scenes packed with ominous dialog and the occasional flurry of action. Subplots never quite come together, including Ollie's romance with Isadora, whose friend (Falahee) doesn't seem to be a jealous boyfriend but acts like one. So by the time this mythical recording finally surfaces, it doesn't carry much impact. Aside from some darkly involving moments, the film feels like a half-forgotten memory.

cert 15 themes, language, nudity 15.Sep.18

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