When it comes to relationships, there’s honestly an endless amount of scenarios that can be explored and portrayed. “The Lovers” deems to explore the marital and extramarital relationships of two people who are terrible at communicating. But the film, written and directed by Azazel Jacobs, is shakily executed and none of the characters particularly likable. In its presentation, “The Lovers” is less of an exploration and more of a narrative that circles back around without having progressed in any kind of way.
Mary (Debra Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts) have been married for decades and are on the verge of calling it quits, but are waiting until their son, Joel (Tyler Ross), arrives home from college to break the news to him. In the mean time, both of them are having affairs without the other knowing. The first half of the film functions with minimal dialogue and more or less embraces the secrecy and tension between Mary and Michael, while providing insight into their extramarital relationships. There is clearly a breakdown in communication and physical distance between them. Midway through, however, everything shifts and the dynamics change, though not necessarily for the better.
“The Lovers” plays out like a merry-go-round, with no potential end in sight. It’s like watching something on a continuous loop. The frustration lies in the fact that the deviation in the narrative in the second half also leads to nowhere. I stand by the notion that not every film is going to have a happy ending–such is life sometimes–but allowing the story to carry on without ever having progressed the characters in any way serves as immensely detrimental to “The Lovers.” Because of this, the story seems to sputter its way to the end without allowing itself to evolve in any satisfactory way.
When there is dialogue, it’s stymied by its neutral execution. There’s some emotion, but it’s heavily guarded. Often times, it feels as though we’re being dropped into the middle of a conversation that has taken place one too many times already. “What do you want from me?” Michael asks his mistress, Lucy (Melora Walters). But Michael doesn’t really have to answer for us to know that she wants him to get his life together, leave his wife, and make a decision that he’ll stick with. I suppose it tries really hard at realism, but the biggest problem is that the movie already knows what the mistakes of its characters are and makes the conscious choice to remain passive.
“The Lovers” could have been a window into a fascinating re-connection between two people who are no longer in love with each other, but can’t seem to let go. In many ways, the potential for the storyline was lost amid the disconnection from the characters. It deems to explore a dysfunctional and worn-down marital relationship, but at the same time it also tries to create a different kind of love story that doesn’t work within the story’s narrative. While the attempt is appreciated, the film’s execution doesn’t quite do the premise justice.
"The Lovers" deems to explore a dysfunctional and worn-down marital relationship, but at the same time it also tries to create a different kind of love story that doesn't work within the story's narrative.