Venturesome indie sci-fi opus “Love” eschews monsters and laser guns for a more cerebral brand of futuristic adventure reminiscent of “2001,” “Solaris,” “Moon” and the like. An impressive show of imagination and design scaled to modest production means, writer-helmer William Eubank’s first feature was germinated by ex-punk-pop supergroup Angels & Airwaves, whose original soundtrack will provide a marketing hook. That angle, plus appeal to genre fans amenable to brainier fare, should make the pic viable for arthouse pickups, with decent home-format prospects down the line. Title’s a hurdle, though.
Initially puzzling prologue is set during the Civil War, as Lt. Lee Briggs (Bradley Horn) muses upon the horrors of battle — depicted via striking, painterly slo-mo tableaux by Eubank, also cinematographer. Having survived service in several otherwise decimated Union regiments, “man of nine lives” Briggs is sent on a special solo mission to witness and report on a mysterious object found in a Western desert canyon. We don’t glimpse that entity (presumably a spaceship) until much later. Relevance of this historical interlude is likewise only partly clarified well into the proceedings.
Pic then lunges nearly two centuries forward and 220 miles outward. Astronaut Lee Miller (Gunner Wright) is orbiting Earth in a one-man space station, his precise job unclear but seemingly involving a routine channeling of data back to his Houston HQ. Naturally, he’s soon got a problem: Communications with his home base become erratic, and he’s told he’ll have to sit tight a while because “something is going on here.”
Cut off from contact entirely, Miller begins to unravel, experiencing dreams and hallucinations in which the pic’s only other cast members appear. (They include several disparate personality types offering philosophical insights in interview segs shot against stark white backdrops.)
While the station offers seemingly indefinite life support — not without a crisis or two — man cannot live by energy bars alone. Or forever alone, period. Pic’s nod to “2001” grows more explicit as Miller goes on his own ultimate trip, a murky transcendental leap whose meaning some will no doubt weigh through repeat viewings.
That spiritual abstruseness and the script’s myriad other ambiguities might infuriate in a film less ingeniously designed on more tangible fronts. But “Love” delights with the detail of its primary set — a compartmentalized tubular space station (purportedly built by Eubank on his parents’ driveway) — as well as in accomplished f/x, consistently interesting yet subservient soundtrack textures (the sole original song is reserved for the closing-credit crawl) and a brisk editorial pace.
Lead thesp Wright, shouldering nearly a one-man-show burden, is gamely athletic, all-American and somewhat of a blank slate, like Kubrick’s astronauts — until some unfettered personality begins to seep out.
Despite all onscreen musings about the need for human interconnectivity, “Love’s” precise point remains as cloudy as its deliberately ambiguous narrative. But the packaging is so intelligently resourceful that most viewers will enjoy the ride regardless of its enigmatic destination. Tech and design contributions are first-rate despite being on a budget.