Faye (Dale Dickey) lives alone in a trailer currently parked at a campsite overlooking a view so gorgeous it’s hard to believe it is real and not a matte painting of the type employed as background in old Hollywood westerns. She lives simply, always finding the perfect song for the moment on her old transistor radio and subsisting off of coffee, beer, and the crustaceans she catches from the lake. The beer is kept at room temperature in a cupboard, not because the trailer lacks refrigeration, we learn, but because she prefers it that way. She takes out a calendar and hovers over the month of September with a marker, picking a spot in the middle at random and deciding to call it “today.”
She is waiting here for someone, an old childhood friend named Lito (Wes Studi) who may or may not be coming to visit her at the campsite. While she waits, she talks with Postman Sam (John Way) and her neighbors at the site, an engaged couple named Jan and Marie (Michelle Wilson and Benja K. Thomas), the former of whom is experiencing cold feet about the engagement. She encounters a young girl named Dice (Marty Grace Dennis, a pint-sized scene-stealer) and her four silent cowpoke brothers, who want to dig up the coffin of their father at the campsite because “the view” is no longer as good as it was when they buried him there.
Too many moments like the one just described could threaten to drown the whole affair in quirkiness, but like everything else about this warm, wonderful movie, there is just the right touch of these supporting characters. The real story, masterfully handled by writer-director Max Walker-Silverman in his remarkably assured feature debut, is the shared memories, grief, and fleeting moments of happiness between Faye and Lito. Even more than that, this is the story of Faye, and who she is and will be whether Lito or anyone else lives up to her hopes or inevitably disappoints her. Like her old transistor radio, whatever she chances upon in life is, ultimately, the perfect song. Or at least a good one.
Studi is excellent as Lito, an amazingly authentic and lived-in performance that manages to eclipse his familiarity from a legendary career as perhaps the most famous Native American actor in Hollywood, completely convincing as an average fella who’s been kicked around a bit by life. Dickey, however, is a true revelation as Faye, conveying multitudes with just her eyes. The super-prolific character actor, probably best known to many (myself included) as “Spooge’s woman” from Breaking Bad, has clearly deserved a starring vehicle for a long time now, and in this understated masterpiece, she makes a meal of it.
These are not the characters we are accustomed to seeing in a romantic drama. Dickey is over 60 and Studi is well into his 70s, and though both have strong, attractive features, they have clearly been through too much living to fit the mold of sanitized Hollywood beauty. A Love Song is no ordinary romantic drama, though. It is so much more, full of all the beauty, joy and heartbreak of life, and the reassurance that, as Lito says, we’ll be okay.