Song to Song (3 stars)

Song to Song

EIFF 2017: Terrence Malick's latest is a starry and spectacular but largely soulless affair

The stars really are out for Terrence Malick's latest, which brings together Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett and Holly Hunter. Unfolding against the backdrop of Austin's music scene, it's a sometimes spellbinding, sometimes frustrating mosaic of love, lust and loss.

'I thought we could just roll and tumble, live from song to song, kiss to kiss,' muses Mara's Faye, describing her free-livin', free-lovin' attitude. She's an aspiring musician making ends meet with dog-walking, flat-sitting and receptionist jobs. Faye falls for fellow up-and-comer BV (Gosling), a puppyish and upstanding type; although their courtship is adorable, she continues to bed Cook (Fassbender), a music producer whose default setting is 'seduce and destroy'. Neither Faye nor the oblivious BV can resist making a deal with this handsome devil as he dangles before them their big breaks, while Portman plays a waitress who's similarly dazzled.

Once again Malick adopts his dreamy elliptical style, giving us snatches rather than scenes and restlessly tripping through the years, accompanied by the reflections of participants. It's shot with endless finesse by the great Emmanuel Lubezki whose camera once again dances to Malick's idiosyncratic tune.

There's poetry in the dialogue and an appealing sense of fate as the central arc becomes a circle but, while this fickle film captures the sensation of falling in love, it skips over the misery of heartache like a skimming stone. And, as mesmerising as this collection of actors unsurprisingly are, it's hard for their performances to build momentum or truly cohere when glimpsed in this way. Often feeling closer to a long perfume advert than a drama, Song to Song is indisputably stylish but lacking in both impact and soul.

Screening on Sun 25 and Wed 28 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017. Selected release from Fri 7 Jul.

Song to Song

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 2h 9min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Terrence Malick
  • Cast: Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender
  • UK release: 7 July 2017

Faye (Mara) is an aspiring musician torn between puppyish up-and-comer BV (Gosling) and handsome devil producer Cook (Fassbender), who is also the object of the desires of a waitress (Portman). Dreamy, elliptical but superficial romance which feels more like a long perfume ad than a proper drama.