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Love Come Down.

2001 101m prod Conquering Lion Pictures, The Film Works, exp Larenz Tate, Victor Solnicki, Pierre Rene, Robert Baruc, Firdaus J. Kharas, p Eric Jordan, Damon D'Oliveira, Clement Virgo, d/sc Clement Virgo, ph Dylan Macleod, cd Susan Maggi, pd Jennifer Carroll, cos Debra Hanson, sr Paul Adlaf, mus Aaron Davis, John Lang; with Larenz Tate, Deborah Cox, Martin Cummins, Rainbow Sun Francks, Sarah Polley, Jennifer Dale, Kenneth Welsh, Naomi Gaskin, Peter Williams.

From the first moments of Love Come Down we understand that brothers, Neville, a black stand-up comic, and Matthew, a white boxer, are each other's keepers. As Neville narrates via his stand-up routine "I'm gonna tell you a fable about two brothers," we know that this film will be a relationship story, a tale/fable of two self-destructive brothers seeking resolution with their troubled past and marred by domestic abuse and the murder of their father. Added to their tragedy is the fact that their white mother is now serving a life sentence for the crime. As a coping method both brothers seek out meaningless escape, Neville through drugs and Matthew through violence.

In the opening scenes, the brothers seem close. They live together and hang in clubs; Neville scoring drugs and Matthew scoring women. Both are ambitious competitors striving to make a name for themselves in their professions. In the midst of this, the brothers pay regular visits to their beloved mother in prison. The meetings are bittersweet, weighed down by regret, guilt and grief. Despite their loyalty, there are feelings of resentment between the brothers. In flash- backs to their childhood, it is Neville, ironically, who proves a talented fighter. This places him in higher regard with their irresponsible and strange father, leaving Matthew feeling inadequate and unloved. There is resentment felt again when Matthew brings Neville to a Catholic rehab centre and into the angelic arms of Sister Sarah, a former addict turned nun.

Enter Niko, a strong-minded and sultry club singer with whom Neville falls in love. In Niko Neville finds a kindred spirit, a catalyst who's own journey toward resolution and self-discovery is a source of inspiration and hope. Adopted at birth by privileged white Jewish parents, Niko wants to find her birth parents, especially as her adoptive mother is now dying. Niko's search leads her to her real father but also to an unexpected and shocking secret about her real birth mother. This is paralleled in Neville and Matthew's conflict, where, at the centre, there is also a shocking secret about their mothe. It is only when Matthew and Neville face this dark secret together that they can put an end to their vicious cycle of co-dependency.

Myth and ritual dominate Clement Virgo's Love Come Down. The film is working in the melodrama genre -- a genre rooted in mythic structures -- where conflict and resolution are played out by archetypes plagued by affliction that is always circumstantial, rather than psychological. It is apt that Virgo frames his story like a fable, as all melodrama has its origins in morality plays and/or folk tales. Like all classic melodramatic characters, Matthew, Neville and Niko struggle through life like "orphans in the storm," aspiring professionally and spiritually beyond their social/economic/psychological landscapes, reminiscent of characters from classic Hollywood adult dramas of the 1950s and `60s. In Neville (Larenz Tate) one is reminded of Frank Sinatra's poker dealer and heroine addict in Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm. Matthew (Martin Cummins) echoes the pathos of Paul Newman's brooding Rocky Graziano in Robert Wise's Somebody Up There Likes Me and Robert Stack's impotent abusive husband in Dougla s Sirk's sweeping pre-Dallas, Written on the Wind. Niko's (Deborah Cox) search for her biological black father and rejection of her adopted white father seems the flip side of Imitation of Life, where Sarah-Jane (Susan Kohner), trying to pass as white, searches unsuccessfully for a non-black identity forcing her to reject her real black mother in the process.

Any weakness in the film is in the writing, where character motivations are underdeveloped and conflicts are left unresolved. Again, this might have to do with Virgo's use of mythic and melodramatic structures but certain inconsistencies do, at times, impede the storytelling. For example, the character of Julian (Rainbow Sun Francks), roommate and childhood friend of the brothers, doesn't seem to have a dramatic function. Even though Julian witnesses the murder of the father (Peter Williams) giving him special knowledge of the true identity of the killer, this has no dramatic consequence. When Julian betrays Matthew by sleeping with his girlfriend, Ceanna (Naomi Gaskin) again there is no dramatic consequences or resolution. Matthew isn't angered by this act of betrayal and there is no impact on their friendship. This seems inconsistent for Matthew, a character who has severe anger-management problems. Ceanna also seems to have little dramatic purpose, except to expose Matthew's dark side, his brutality and womanizing. She's strictly a device, who disappears halfway through the film. Niko's adopted father (Kenneth Welsh) is also underdeveloped and plays like a stereotype, "rich and overprotective daddy." There is little resolution concerning his relationship with Niko, who seems bent on defying and rejecting him. Miraculously, at the end, her adoptive father and biological father appear to be friends. It is as if the emotional storm has simply ended. The orphans are no longer orphans, the afflicted, no longer afflicted. As Sister Sarah (Sarah Polley) repeats almost unemotionally, "God loves you, Neville, God loves you." Like all good Catholics, Neville is a passive receiver, rather than active seeker in his redemption.

Despite some of the weaknesses in the script, the performances are strong, often transcending character flaws. Directing actors is Virgo's strength and talent. Cummins (no relation) is a vulnerable, angry, intense, virile and passionate performer, making a "raging bull" appear human, sad, remorseful and honourable. Cummins deserved his supporting actor Genie. Tate is equally moving and charismatic. His scenes with Niko are played with honesty and sensual ease. His moments of addiction desperation and longing for connection with his brother are subtle, expressive and truthful. Cox is elegant, intelligent and charming. She makes Niko believable and human. The supporting players are strong here as well, although Polley seems miscast as a worldly addict turned nun. This is not her fault. Sister Sarah is written as a symbol rather than a character.

Virgo's aesthetic is always distinct. His use of light, shadow, colour, tone and rhythm is smart, powerful, sensual and original. In Love Come Down, Virgo manages to compensate for story weaknesses with his talent with actors, his richly textured visuals and his unique cinematic vision. Virgo pulls out all the stops here: murder, secret births, jaded lovers, substance abuse, betrayal, sacrificial mothers, deathbed confessions and long-lost fathers. It's deliciously operatic.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:CUMMINS, KATHLEEN
Publication:Take One
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:May 1, 2001
Words:1130
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