A marriage is a living thing–kind of like an entity, or a soul. Within are the experiences of two lives merged into one.
A birth. An infancy. A childhood.
Then comes the teenage years. And the young adult stage.
Many marriages don’t survive beyond this point, which is usually seven to ten years. Circumstance rears its ugly head; the unexpected looms large and then lowers the boom. The marriage is overcome. Neglected. Or just abandoned.
In this regard marriage shares more qualities with a mistreated pet than it does with a soul. It ages fast. Especially if there are children involved.
Even so, a marriage can live a long, long time. The phrase ‘until death do us part’ comes to mind.
Resilience is key. And commitment. And compromise.
And what of passion? Of love? One might ask.
One might…if one is young. At least, that’s the thesis of first time director/writer/producer Robert Machoian’s achingly quiet, visually stunning dramatic film treatise, The Killing of Two Lovers, in which journeyman actor Clyne Crawford (in a mesmerizingly compelling performance) plays husband, David.
David is young, in his early thirties, but he and his wife, Nikki, have been married for years. She too is young–his age. They have children–a teenage girl and three young boys.
As high school sweethearts in a tiny town they’ve never left, they had their daughter, Jess. For David, Jess is the catalyst of their marriage; for Nikki, she is the reason.
Their story and their images are woven into a stark, purposeful vision that fixates, from a distance, on the expanse of prairie land, of unencumbered skies and tumbleweeds, of the loneliness of barren roads and a windswept playground, sweeping over the desperation of peeling paint, of a crushed cup littering a discount store’s parking lot.
Nikki has grown tired of this life. An aspiring paralegal, she has only recently tasted the first fruits of a career as opposed to a job–they are sweet. The possibilities are sweeter still. A lawyer in the building where she works encourages her to aim higher. They begin an affair.
David knows about it. Even if Nikki wanted to, it would be impossible to keep it secret in a tiny town.
But she doesn’t hide.
She and David have agreed to a separation which means that he lives in his old bedroom of his father’s house, just a short jog down the road. They have also agreed that they can see other people.
Nikki asks if he’s thought about getting his own place.
Still, David clings to hope. He adores his family. All he’s ever wanted to be is Nikki’s husband and a father to their children.
Well, almost. David’s a decent singer songwriter. He was once in a punk band, but he let go of those dreams and never looked back. Nikki’s audience is enough. He loves her.
She loves him too, but differently, gently, even as she steers him toward the roaring waters of divorce. When, during an argument, he is barely able to contain himself, she scolds him, careful to protect his impetuous inner child, though it’s the child she’s grown weary of.
Daughter Jess is weary of him too. David knows this so he coerces her to spend time with him, but spends it romping around with the boys, buying them expensive toys the family can’t afford…rockets. He buys one for Jess also.
When her rocket fails to lift, he doesn’t understand why she storms off. His love for her is oceans wide. Why can’t it be enough?
Funny how it’s not enough to stop him from stalking Derek with a gargantuan pistol, ready at the reach. And it’s not enough to startle him out of blowing Nikki and Derek’s heads off with it either–a toilet flushing thankfully does the trick–when he finds them sleeping together in the home where his children lay. He slinks away as Nikki and Derek barely stir, only to act as if nothing happened when he stops by later to walk the boys to school.
So yes, it’s complicated.
Yet despite David’s dance with murder and Nikki taking her lover into the marital bed, there are no monsters here.
No Jezebel. No Mr. Hyde.
Just David. Just Nikki. Their children. And their marriage.
Therein lies the tragedy. And the movie’s battered, but still beautiful soul.