There’s a chill in the air with a hushed silence; tragedy seemingly about to occur as David (Clayne Crawford) hovers over a peaceful couple in bed sleeping. Distraught isn’t a strong enough word to describe this disheveled young man on the verge of murder. A noise in the background helps him switch gears and he leaves, gun in hand, walking along the cold, desolate street in a very small town in Utah to his father’s home where he attempts to interact as usual.
We learn that David and his wife Nikki (Sepideh Moafi) are separated with an agreement to see others if they wish. Much more difficult for David than Nikki, he knows he’s not only losing his wife, but his home and most importantly his four children, three of whom aren’t quite old enough to grasp the gravity of their parents’ situation. Jess (Avery Pizzuto), a teenager, however, is keenly aware of everything happening as she places blame on each parent differently. While acting as a typical teen, there’s an element of wisdom as she commands her father to fight for his family. It is at this moment that we understand David more completely.
The series of events takes place over a very short period of time, in true cinéma vérité style, we are but a mere observer, following David in his every interaction. Seeing this unfold from his perspective creates sympathy for David as he flounders in life. And living in a small town where everyone knows everything about everyone, we feel the pressures of his world.
From a cinematic perspective, writer and director Robert Machoian plunges us into the story, this family, and David’s emotional turmoil. Machoian also creates a small cast of characters who explode with authenticity. Crawford’s complex portrayal of David is gut wrenching as we watch him try to win back his family. He gives David just the right touch of confusion, hurt, anger, and tenderness to develop a man we all know. As it is seen through David’s eyes, the remainder of the cast is supportive, but these actors all give such realistic performances that it elevates the story at every level.
Machoian’s eye for capturing this tragic love story is brilliant as it’s never invasive nor too dramatic–it’s realistic. One scene in particular will remain with me as David packs four kids into the cab of his pick up truck on a cold winter day and discusses the kids’ day at school. A very routine and mundane topic we’ve all had, but I was overwhelmed by emotion as this family, on the verge of being ripped apart, interacts lovingly yet realistically. Crawford’s twinkle in his eyes, the loving smiles and laughter from them all, as they talked to and over one another, warmed my heart. It was an actual conversation from this family that made me, as a viewer, want Nikki and David to repair their relationship and keep this family together. I was completely invested in these characters and this story.
This type of story could easily forget the need for a narrative arc, but Machoian is a master at surprising us with the pivotal interactions that lead David down one decisive path. “The Killing of Two Lovers” is sheer artistry in storytelling, acting, and directing although a somewhat ambiguous ending may leave some viewers needing more.
Find out where to see “The Killing of Two Lovers” here: HERE
3 1/2 Stars