Indie film gives us a path to stories and worlds we normally would not explore. Along with this comes a unique vision by filmmakers who have more creative freedoms then their Hollywood counterparts. One such path leads to The Song of Sway Lake, helmed by filmmaker Ari Gold.
The movie follows a reclusive music collector, Ollie Sway, played by Rory Culkin (“Scream 4”, “Signs”) who partners up with a Russian drifter, Nikolai, portrayed by Robert Sheehan (“Bad Samaritan”, “Mortal Engines“) to help him steal a rare, valuable record from his family’s estate.
From the beginning we are drawn into this location by a collection of newsreel footage that gives us a sense of the rich history that Sway Lake has and the Sway family who founded it. This is buoyed by voice over by Charlie Sway, with Mary Beth Peil (“The Stepford Wives”, “Dawson’s Creek (TV)”) owning that role.
Charlie is Ollie’s grandmother, the eldest of a family reunion at the Sway Lake estate after the unfortunate suicide of Ollie’s father. Upon Ollie’s arrival, he quickly discovers Isadora played by Isabelle McNally (“Bates Motel (TV)”), she is a purple haired beauty who stands out in this small town. Isadora is unsure of what to make of the shy Ollie, but he is clearly taken by her. Nikolai, on the other hand has the confidence and good looks that earns many affections from ladies around the lake.
The Song of Sway Lake is a slow burn, coming of age drama seeped in artistry and tone. Stunning vignettes lensed by cinematographer Eric Lin show the purity and history of Sway Lake that Charlie has recently decided to protect against a rise of tourism in the area. To be clear, this story is not fast paced, it moves slow and steady and has subtle character development. If that is not your speed, The Song of Sway Lake just is not for you. The movie has a total run time of 1 hour and 40 minutes. Around 5 minutes could have been cut, but overall the pacing was fine.
That being said, writers Elizabeth Bull and Ari Gold wrote a naturalistic story that is rich with the complexities of life. It quickly became clear that this film, like most of Ari Gold’s work is a story he alone can tell. Ari Gold is an award winning filmmaker who made a splash early on in 2001, when his deeply personal short film Helicopter premiered at the SXSW Film Festival.
It would be a missed opportunity if I did not bring up the music and score of the movie. Given that our McGuffin in this story is a priceless record album, music is a major element in The Song of Sway Lake. The movie uses classic needle drops such as Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine, but it also features a fluttering score from Ethan Gold, Ari Gold’s brother.
Charlie, Ollie and his late father are all music lovers, they obsess over their record collection, rating each one. All except for the elusive Sway Lake record of course, that one is unopened, only adding to its value. There are some music references that I must admit went over my head, I wish I was at that level with music that I am with my cinema knowledge. If you are a music enthusiast or record collector, you are sure to appreciate this nuance. If you want to see a supremely crafted, indie drama, I recommend that you don’t skip this one. The Song of Sway Lake is available on most major digital platforms.
Curt Wiser is the Writer/Director of the suspense movie Cam-Girl. As a filmmaker, he is happy to swim in unfamiliar waters and share these movies with the rest of the world.
THE QUICK SELL
Music collector Ollie Sway recruits his only friend, a rowdy Russian drifter, to help him steal a 78 record from his own family's estate.