There’s no better way to save a marriage than to let a magical Danish drifter into one’s home — at least, according to “D-love,” an uplifting indie that claims to be inspired by real events. In this paint-by-numbers drama from director Elena Beuca and writer Dave Rogers (who also star), an estranged couple is transformed after a chance encounter with a vagabond, who spouts new-age platitudes, provides some yoga lessons and brings, you guessed it, love back into their lives. Only the most sentimental of sorts will be able to stomach the sappiness that ensues.
Arriving back in L.A. from a vacation that failed to reignite their spark, Stefania (Beuca) and Dan (Rogers) are approached at the airport by D-love (Ditlev Darmakaya), who asks them if they’re going “east.” Unwilling to let this innocent stranger try to hitchhike his way to Sedona, Dan invites him to stay at their home, much to the chagrin of Stefania, who keeps referring to D-love as “homeless,” and who fears he’s going to steal her prized possessions, including the camera she was gifted from her now-deceased brother, who appears in regular sun-dappled flashbacks to Stefania’s happy Eastern European childhood.
While Stefania’s fears are, on the face of it, perfectly reasonable, “D-love” makes clear from the outset that Darmakaya’s character — sporting a nose ring, long blonde hair that’s shaved on one side of his head and a giant walking stick — is a borderline supernatural character with only honorable intentions. No sooner has he entered their domicile than he’s rekindled Dan’s passion for cooking, which Dan loved to do with his dad, but strayed from after his parents’ death (and his subsequent descent into boozy isolation). Moreover, by posting a video of Dan cooking online, D-love nabs his new BFF a shot at a TV cooking show!
As if Dan’s close friendship with D-love weren’t enough to annoy Stefania, she’s also made miserable by her inability to have children with Dan, and by the cartoonishly nasty treatment she receives from boss Annie (Christine Fazzino) at a job that’s never actually defined. She otherwise spends her time compulsively running up a set of hillside stairs so she can water a barren tree (symbolism alert!), as well as talking to her friend Chris (Christine Scott Bennett) about her woes. Meanwhile, Chris’ husband Shaun (Billy Howerdel) criticizes Dan for palling around with an untrustworthy figure like D-love — who, because Darmakaya can barely act, is often kept in the background, hovering over the proceedings like a saintly specter.
There’s absolutely no doubt as to how “D-love” will play out, yet even more enervating is the film’s reliance on endless exposition, often set to A Perfect Circle founder Howerdel’s cloying score. Beuca’s handheld-favoring direction isn’t any better, and though her role is more demanding than Rogers’, her performance is far from nuanced, in large part because the material at hand is consistently one-note. By the time a random mechanic (Michael Monks) counsels Stefania to “just let go,” the action has long since departed reality and set up residence in a feel-good fantasyland where people might welcome Darmakaya’s holy-wanderer shtick with open arms rather than eye-rolls.