Neil Young’s Film Lounge – This is Not a Love Song



Bille Eltringham : UK 2002 : 91 mins

This Is Not A Love SongSimon Beaufoy remains best known for The Full Monty, but most of his other scripts tend toward less upbeat territory especially his alarmingly prescient foot-and-mouth drama The Darkest Light (also directed by Eltringham). Love Song goes even further, into full-on paranoid rural gothic: two fish-out-of-water townies are man-hunted by yokels in the Middle Of Nowhere after one of them accidentally shoots a farmers young daughter.

Beaufoy and Eltringham strain a little too hard in search of a Brit Deliverance or Southern Comfort, but the results are effective enough on a scene-by-scene thriller basis, especially those concentrating on interplay between the mismatched central duo. Michael Colgan and Kenny Glenaan are the films strong suit as motormouth, patience-sapping Spike and practical-minded ex-soldier Heaton: they’re like an Irvine Welsh version of the old Of Mice and Men double-act, with a hint of Beckett thrown in.

As the leader of the would-be lynch mob on their trail, gimlet-eyed David Bradley achieves a suitably gaunt grim-reaper relentlessness, even if the films wider take on country justice lacks the sophistication of, say, Swedens Bloody Angels from a few years back. Instead, we have an treatment of the land that’s oddly non-specific in geographic terms: Spike is from Ulster, Heaton Scottish, the farmers from Yorkshire, and all constantly refer to the nearest conurbation as The City you can almost hear the capital letters in their voices as Beaufoy fumbles towards allegory.

But there’s much to like about the nicely atmospheric, sinister-nightfall-in-the-countryside stuff captured by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, especially when accompanied by the ominous strains of the title tune, orchestrated for moodily strings from the pounding P.i.L. original (which we also hear at various points) by Adrian Johnston and Mark Rutherford.

But director Eltringham gets carried away with the digital-video format, relying on already-overfamiliar juddering stop-motion blurriness to convey the extremis of our heroes situations. Spikes aerosol-induced hallucinations are striking (all purples, yellows and midnight blues) but and we could do without sharing his more prosaic visions: guilt-induced but clumsily-visualised flashes of the murdered girl. These rough edges are a shame, because Eltringham is more than capable of some powerful sequences when settling down, pulling back, and letting the capable cast get on with acting out the nightmare.

14th August 2002
(seen same day, on video, Edinburgh Film Festival)

For all the reviews from the 2002 Edinburgh Film Festival click here.

by Neil Young