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“The Song of Sway Lake” Movie Review by Daniel Barnes

Rory Culkin in The Song of Sway LakeThe Song of Sway Lake (2018; Ari Gold)


By Daniel Barnes

*Opens Friday, September 21, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.

Rory Culkin stars in this impressionistic but inconsistent drama as Ollie Sway, a disaffected disc jockey who returns to his family home on Sway Lake following his estranged father’s suicide.

Despite skipping the funeral, Ollie determines that it’s his duty to steal a rare 78 record from the house before his grandmother Charlie (Mary Beth Peil) can find and sell the still-sealed heirloom.  Ollie brings a handsome but unpredictable Russian friend named Nikolai (Robert Sheehan) along for the ride.

As Ollie struggles with the thought that his inherited obsession with musical curation might be the same thing that drove his record collector father to suicide, he also nurses a crush on a purple-haired, jet-skiing girl named Isadora (Isabelle McNally) from the nearby hotel.  Meanwhile, Nikolai makes a strange play to become part of the family.

The Song of Sway Lake bleeds past, present, dream, memory and fantasy together into a moody and ethereal family drama.  While I can’t say that much of it worked for me beyond the theoretical level, I admired director Ari Gold’s attempt to transcend his Sundance-ready scenario with mythology and montage.

Read more of Daniel’s reviews at Dare Daniel and Rotten Tomatoes, and listen to Daniel on the Dare Daniel podcast.