I needed time after seeing Thou Wast Mild and Lovely because immediately after watching it I knew I was too angry to write a review on it. Now that I’ve calmed down I’ve come to terms with my dislike of Josephine Decker’s directing style and her all consuming idea of style over substance. Now don’t get me wrong I like style in film, I love absurdity in film but it all must have a point. Unfortunately Thou Wast Mild and Lovely has it’s head in the clouds and leaves its viewer out in the rain.
The film is set at a isolated farm where Akin (Joe Swanberg) has been hired as extra help by father and daughter duo (Robert Longstreet and Sophie Traub respectively). Akin slowly falls for the daughter Sarah and before long they are both having a passionate affair (queue masturbation and aggressive sex). We discover that Akin has secrets and the father is a dick head (excuse my language) so as can be expected these two variables blow up to cause drama on the farm.
Ok now let’s talk about Decker’s filmmaking decisions. In the film there are so many times when Decker cuts before the action really starts in the scene that it becomes extremely difficult to get to know the characters. It takes about twenty good minutes at the start to get use to the rhythm of the film and understand what is actually happening in the narrative. Nearly all the shots have a blur to focus quality (I don’t know the technical term for this) which left me disorientated and frustrated. I love films that test the boundaries of normal cinematic expectations but watching this film I saw no point in the mountain of contrived editing choices. What Decker does is very dangerous because it takes over the film and pulls focus from the important things like character and story.
The acting is all solid (well what we are allowed to see of it) and the father shines as a horrible man yet he isn’t really the villain as all the characters come across as unlikeable. I do wonder if Decker intended this to be the case as each character acts in nasty, selfish ways throughout the film. When the film reaches it’s climax and the characters are out for blood the events that take place are underserved as there is no progression before it. I am one to try not use the word pretentious but this film definitely huddles up to that description. There are beautiful scenic shots in the film and the story itself is an interesting one which I would love to have seen with more patience used by the filmmaker.
Thou Wast Mild and Lovely is not my cup of tea. I found the choices made to be reminiscent of a film school student experimenting with style and editing but not having a firm grasp with exactly what they want to do. It’s a shame because I know there is a good film in Thou Wast Mild and Lovely.
THOU WAST MILD AND LOVELY is directed by Josephine Decker and stars Joe Swanberg, Sophie Traub, Robert Longstreet, Kristin Slaysman and Matt Orme. It is currently available on iTunes.
Categories: Horror Movie Reviews