‘Love Always’ Does Spokane Visual Justice
Let’s get this up front: “Love Always” may be the best film ever shot in Spokane.
The city sure hasn’t looked better.
But let’s face it: The number of great Spokane films would make a short list. And we can argue all day long about the so-called good ones - “Vision Quest,” say, and “Benny & Joon.”
So putting “Love Always” over them, even if ever so slightly, is no sterling endorsement.
Truth is, “Love Always” doesn’t have the professional polish of those more expensive mainstream offerings. Instead, it plays like an average addition to your standard film fesitval schedule - a movie shot with cheap film stock, that features no-name stars, whacky characters, cute dialogue and even cuter plot twists.
If “Love Always” were set in Bakersfield, Calif., no one here likely would care about it for any longer than it takes to say “Ingrown Empire.”
And yet… the film, a first effort by writer-director Jude Eberhard, really does Spokane visual justice. And it does feature a spirited performance by its lead actress, newcomer Marisa Ryan (“Major Dad”).
Best of all, it may have one of the most natural, least Hollywood-type endings of any movie you are likely to see this year.
The plot is, if this isn’t stretching the classical allusion a bit far, a reworking of “The Odyssey.” It’s an extended road trip where the protagonist, anxious to arrive at her intended destination, is repeatedly thwarted. (Eberhard doesn’t give us any Cattle of the Sun, but she does feature a couple of ceramic cows.)
That destination, if you haven’t already guessed, is Spokane. It’s also where the protagonist, anxious to arrive at her intended destination, is repeatedly thwarted. (Eberhard doesn’t give us any Cattle of the Sun, but she does feature a couple of ceramic cows.)
That destination, if you haven’t already guessed, is Spokane. It’s also where the story starts.
Our protagonist, Julia, decides that her love for Mark (Michael Reilly Burke) isn’t enough to keep her tied down. She’s gotta go and see what life holds for her.
Time passes, and we find Julia living in San Diego, doing some acting with friends, babysitting her troubled brother, hanging out at the Del Mar racetrack and generally still searching for something she still can’t define.
And then a postcard arrives. It’s one of those 75-cent, oversized cards that features a beautiful view of Spokane Falls.
Its message is as direct as it is simple: Done with law school (what, was he attending Gonzaga?), Mark beseeches her to come back. “Marry me!” he writes.
Struck by the power of her memories, Julia decides that maybe she should marry the guy. Whatever, it is time for another change, so she cuts her San Diego ties and heads north.
But she has barely started before the sidetracking sets in. She gets picked up and dumped by a manic guy driving a van full of Mexican trinkets. Then she connects with a woman in need (this is the ceramic cow part). A mistake lands her in Las Vegas.
Obligations land her in Boston.
And luck leads to her driving across Montana with an AWOL Marine, a sequence that ends up with her needing to be nursed, and nurtured, by a caring, sensitive photographer.
And so on.
Revealing much more of the plot would serve only to give away Eberhard’s story (which she based on a novel titled “Finding Signs” by Sharlene Baker). But anyone familiar with Homer can guess at least part of what happens.
And anyone paying attention can guess the rest.
Much of what occurs in between is served up cute. Ryan starts slowly, and some of her scenes - an audition for a kid’s musical before child judges, a farewell with a friend (played by Moon Unit Zappa), the whole Manic Guy sequence - have the feel of amateur theater.
But she, like the movie, gets better. And by the time she’s standing on the top of Cavanaugh’s, with the skyline of Spokane serving as background, and she’s crying while delivering a clever, stirring speech about what women really want, she’s actually quite good.
Maybe even perfect. For by then she actually seems like a person who might one day, as Mark promises, “love somebody with all the intensity of the southern hemisphere.”
Which in itself is perfect.
Because even as a rookie, writer-director Eberhard had the good sense to remember the No. 1 narrative rule of comedy-drama: Leave them smiling as the curtain closes.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story:
Locations: Lincoln Heights, Lyons Cinemas
Credits: Written and directed by Jude Eberhard, starring Marisa Ryan, Michael Reilly Burke, Moon Unit Zappa, Beverly D’Angelo, James Victor, Beth Grant.
Running time: 1:58
This sidebar appeared with the story: “Love Always” *** Locations: Lincoln Heights, Lyons Cinemas Credits: Written and directed by Jude Eberhard, starring Marisa Ryan, Michael Reilly Burke, Moon Unit Zappa, Beverly D’Angelo, James Victor, Beth Grant. Running time: 1:58 Rating: PG