Notable character actor Stephen Keep Mills makes his feature-length writing and directing debut, at 73-years-old no less, with the romantic, comedic drama Love Is Not Love. It starts off in the most helter-skelter manner as it cuts between a two-person Greek chorus performing in the park, two construction workers waxing philosophical about Tristan And Isolde and the nature of romantic entanglements more generally, two ladies who are holding similar observations, all the while an elderly gentleman walks in the background unnoticed by all.
While a tad confusing, the first few minutes of the movie set the stage for a sweeping look at what romance means to people from all walks of life. The way the dialogue between the various characters line up together, though with new meaning depending on who is speaking, demands that the viewer pays close attention. It is unexpected, bold, and the black-and-white cinematography lends the whole moment a dreamy, slightly nostalgic tone.
Sadly, once Love Is Not Love actually picks a singular storyline, all that intensity and engagement vanishes. In its stead are confusing character connections and sitcom-style ideas of old married couples. That isn’t to say the more in your face moments entirely disappear, but more on that in a bit.
“…Frank and Reyna are genuinely falling for each other. But if Reyna, whose real name is Emilia, is being paid for her time, is it all an act?”
The story proper follows Frank (Mills), who, after a brief yet strange conversation with a random woman about tickets for a show, goes to visit Reyna (Alejandra Gollas). She’s either a prostitute or just someone that shares excellent chemistry with the man. The answer will never be made clear, just as what exactly the two are hoping to get from their interactions remains oblique. Anyways, the two have sex and arrange to meet again in a week or so.
It seems as if Frank and Reyna are genuinely falling for each other. But if Reyna, whose real name is Emilia, is being paid for her time, is it all an act? If it is an act, then what is the audience supposed to take away from the not so insignificant amount of time Love Is Not Love spends with the two lovers. See, if it is an act, then is Mills trying to say that sex workers will be kind to you for money? Sure, that makes some sense. If they are meant to be falling in love, the random dream (?) sequences of Reyna being quite harsh towards Frank make even less sense then their already nonsensical inclusion would imply.