The hunt for a rare record becomes a combination of paying homage to nostalgia with a melancholic tone about family, driven by the performances of the trio of Rory Culkin, Robert Sheehan, and Mary Beth Peil.
A few years after his father’s death, Ollie Sway, the grandson of Sway Lake founder Captain Hal Sway, is returning to his family’s estate with one thing in mind. He plans to find a 78 RPM vinyl record that he believes could hold the key to his family. He brings along his friend, Russian drifter Nikolai, to the estate in hopes for the duo to find the record. At first, the duo spends time having fun at the house and docks. However, things will soon become complicated.
Charlie Sway, the widow of Hal and grandmother of Ollie, has returned to the estate with the sole intention of selling off the property. Her intentions are more than well met by the locals, who feel that the Sways have overstayed their welcome. When Ollie come across the record, he slowly comes across some good and bad things that will ultimately make Oliie come to a decision and begin the process of letting go.
A very interesting combination of nostalgia, modern times, and coming to terms within oneself and family, director Ari Gold has brilliantly set forth in motion a film that starts out with something simple, only to add intricate twists and turns throughout the story that all culminates with a finale that proves to be both satisfying and regretful at the same time, bringing the characters coming to grips with themselves in the long run.
Rory Culkin brings a mesmerizing performance as the embittered Ollie, who still relishing over his father’s death, intends to keep his memory alive by stealing a rare record that soon becomes wanted by his ungrateful grandmother Charlie, played by Mary Beth Peil. Charlie spends most of the film either nagging Ollie for the minimal of things or having some sort of bond with Ollie’s friend Nikolai, played by Robert Sheehan. Nikolai himself is the more outspoken of the friends who serves as a connection between the two. While his motives may be suspect, it is possible that there could be a sense of why Nikolai does what he does.
While the story focuses mainly on these three characters, there are two supporting characters that help drive the film and become sources of conscience for our trio. The first is Isadora, played by Isabelle McNally. She is a local girl who becomes somewhat of a crush of Ollie’s, only to somewhat help him in his most dire of times when it comes to being alone. The second is Marlena, a Cuban refugee who becomes Charlie’s housekeeper, played by Elizabeth Peña in one of her final performances before her death in 2014. She can be best described as the “Switzerland” between Ollie and Charlie in their internal conflict, listening to both sides in hopes to come with a peaceful resolution between these two flawed characters.
In the end, The Song of Sway Lake starts out as what should be a simple film about the search for a record, but ultimately goes beyond that with the themes of nostalgia, family, and letting go of the past, thanks in part to the driven performances of Culkin, Sheehan, and Peil.
WFG RATING: A-
The Orchard presents a Grack Films production in association with Social Construct and Act Zero Films. Director: Ari Gold. Producers: Michael Bederman, Allison Rose Carter, Ari Gold, and Zak Kilberg. Writers: Ethan Gold and Elizabeth Bull. Cinematography: Eric Lin. Editing: Christopher Dillon and Gabriel Wrye.
Cast: Rory Culkin, Robert Sheehan, Isabelle McNulty, Elizabeth Peña, Mary Beth Peil, Jack Falahee, Jason Brill, Bob Foley, Anna Shields, Brian Dennehy (voice).
The Orchard releases the film on VOD and Digital HD today.