The film retreads Malick’s favorite questions, with fresh faces in the Austin music scene.
Since at least 2011’s The Tree of Life — and really throughout his whole career — Terrence Malick’s overwhelming interest has been paradise. What is it? Where is it? How do we lose it? How can we find it again?
In his latest film, Song to Song, Malick returns to those same queries, this time in the Austin rock music scene. Meanwhile, his easily parodied stylistic hallmarks — swirling cameras, sunlit landscapes, fields of tall grasses waving in the wind, barefoot maidens tiptoeing in pools of water, beautiful actors, and, above all, whispery philosophical voiceovers — are pulling in diminishing returns, at times feeling obvious or even rote, rather than poetic and calculated. You might like that kind of thing, or you might have trouble watching because your eyes keep rolling.
But though Song to Song can get repetitive and directionless, it’s also dynamic and satisfying by its conclusion. Even when it feels like a pastiche of Malick’s other films, it shouldn’t be dismissed — and the filmmaker shouldn’t be dismissed, either. He is chasing hard after something metaphysical, and his camera still works in service of the great beauty and pain of that pursuit.