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I wondered if The Killing of Two Lovers was going to be one of those movie titles that’s a big, fat spoiler alert. I remember the year Lone Survivor came out, there were three films like that, where the title told us what to expect. And when the opening scene shows a man standing over two people in bed, pointing a gun…you figure it’s going to be one of those deals where he shoots them and we see what happened “8 months earlier.”

Nope. He decides not to shoot them, and sneaks out the window and runs back to his dad’s house, where he’s currently living.

It’s confusing as to who is who, especially when we see this guy drive up to pick up his kids, and he’s talking all lovey-dovey with the woman, and she’s being flirtatious back with him chatting about their upcoming “date night.” 

So, they’re a married couple with four kids, who are living apart, but trying to work on their relationship while on this “break.”

Yet this is the same guy who was just on the verge of killing his wife and her lover, with his kids in the other room (in the light of day, with one child even using the bathroom)…and he…what? No longer has that type of anger when he’s seeing her a short time later?

That is one of a few complaints I have with this movie. The other is that the wife character makes absolutely no sense, in any of the decisions she’s making.

The last of my complaints is that Robert Machoian (writer/director), who did a lot of great things with this movie, dropped the ball by showing lots of scenes of…a dude driving a truck. A dude going out into the field for target practice. A dude moping around. These scenes are long and don’t go anywhere. The way it’s shot adds atmosphere, and it’s a slow burn that is a bit intense, because we know what this guy is capable of (the opening scene showed us that). 

This all takes place in rural Utah, with a backdrop of mountains. David (Clayne Crawford of the Lethal Weapon series) desperately wants his wife Nikki (Sepideh Moafi) back. It’s odd that she smiles and says she loves him, and acts sweet towards him. It’s hard for me to imagine that, a woman like her (she was smart enough to be a law student, but dropped out to raise her four kids)…who has checked out of this relationship and gotten into another one…would also still have romantic feelings for him; or that she’d have this new lover come over to her house and sleep over, while she’s still “working on things” with her husband. And she wonders why her teenage daughter is so ticked off by this situation?

What’s interesting about the movie is that…we quickly start to sympathize with David. That’s for a number of reasons. He’s taking care of his ailing father (Bruce Graham), and we enjoy their banter. We see that he’s great with his kids. Even when he bombs with dad jokes (one of his kids is hip enough to appreciate the comedic brilliance of the late Mitch Hedberg)…he isn’t corny. He’s smart, witty, and charming. And even the way he tries to get Nikki back, makes us root for him. He’s not pushy, and doesn’t seem like the stalker type. And when he does something that might appear like that (sneaking over at 2:30 a.m. to tell jokes to his kids), his explanation of that seems a bit reasonable. 

Some of the long takes Machoian gives us work nicely (for example, the opening where we watch David run home). Other times, it feels like a first time filmmaker trying to be artistic. There needs to be some heft in the script, not just great cinematography. 

It’s hard to understand what Nikki sees in Derek (Chris Coy). He’s not particularly good looking, and once we find out more about him…not the nicest person. You also wonder why he’s showing up at her house to bring flowers. Surely he knows the situation she’s going through, and even if he didn’t, he’d be smart enough not to want to get involved in the kids’ lives this early in the separation. And while we can’t understand Nikki’s attraction to him, it makes sense why she’d be with David. They met in high school and quickly got married because of a pregnancy. And when he talks to his kids or his wife about problems they’re having, my wife even said, “This is the most verbal farmhand ever.”

The teenage rebel Jess (Avery Pizzuto) is easy to figure out. She explains why she’s ticked off.

“Why can’t you guys just stay together, like grandpa and grandma?”

The younger kids are cute, as they talk about school, and we watch them have a blast with the rockets dad buys them. That’s a solid scene that has us on the edge of our seat, wondering which kid is going to lose an eye. 

This movie made me think of three films I love — The World According to Garp (there’s a scene where their date night just involves them sitting in front of their house, talking about how wonderful their kids are), A Marriage Story (for obvious reasons), and Snow Angels (Sam Rockwell).

There’s some great stuff going on here. The performances are outstanding. And it’s the type of low-budget indie picture critics are all going to rave about. It just drops the ball a few too many times. And the ending of it…is easily the most frustrating you’ll see in a film all year. It rivals the ending of The Sopranos.

2 stars out of 5, and it’s playing in Hillcrest, and at the Angelika Film Center.