Love & Savagery John N. Smith
Published Nov 12, 2009In its simplest terms, Love & Savagery is the sort of film that expects us to keep a straight face when characters break into long-winded Celtic chants or read each other dreadfully corny poetry. We're also asked to buy into forbidden love based entirely on longing looks, as, quite simply, the lovers have the complexity of goldfish. It's sweet, charming and well intentioned but exceedingly rote and as shallow as a mud puddle.
These maudlin sentiments come care of Michael (Allan Hawco), a Canadian Geologist and amateur poet examining rocks in Ballyvaughan, Ireland, circa 1968. While there, he meets plucky Irish lass Cathleen (Sarah Greene), who, unbeknownst to him, made a vow to her dying mother at the age of 13 to become a nun, which means no nookie.
If keeping it in his pants wasn't enough of a dilemma, the locals step in on the budding romance, initially warning Michael to keep away from their chaste darling, then using violence to clarify their point. Meanwhile, Cathleen struggles with basic human hormones.
Should the cartoon-ish animalization of the small town locals serve as a detriment to the film, a series of bizarre decisions made by both Michael and Cathleen seal the deal. After receiving a brutal beating and nearly drowning, the love-stricken Newfoundlander shares an intimate dance with the wife of God at a local pub. While this could serve as character-building passive-aggressive act of arrogance, the film sidetracks the issue, leaving things to goo-goo eyes and blind ignorance without any psychological indication why these people would want each other, outside of craving a good shag.
Some lush cinematography and a deliberate pace partially mask these many narrative shortcomings but at the end of it all, it's hard to think anything other than, "why are these people so incredibly stupid?"
On the unintentional humour front, Martha Burns, who was last seen chained up in a sex dungeon, surrounded by men with dildos strapped to their faces, in You Might As Well Live, plays a nun. (Mongrel Media)