“Love Will Travel” is the first Rockabilly-style film I’ve ever seen. The tattoos, pomade, burlesque girls, and honky-tonk pull an otherwise traditional misfits-make-their-way-in-the-world story pleasantly along. The story begins in Hamburg, Germany just after 18-year old Lena’s (Tanja Nicklisch) parents are tragically killed. To save her infant kid sister, Katrin, from a foster home, Lena steals her away to America with the help of her honky-tonk piano playing boyfriend, Levon (Johnny Goetchius). Cut to 13 years later. To, rather stereotypically, pay for Katrin’s (Katheryn Gilbert) undefined operation Lena borrows money from, therefore becoming indentured to, Ramon (John Robb), her skanky strip club owner boss. Ramon plays the coke-sniffing, despicable rascal (think Bobby Peru from “Wild At Heart”) so well, the fledgling family skips town to save themselves from him. This is when it gets a bit “Jim Jarmuschy”. They road trip to a defunct Nevada mining town called Goldfield and set up a new life, made interesting by the eccentric inhabitants living therein.
“Love Will Travel” is really a beautiful film. Joplin Wu (Director of Photography) filmed the vistas of urban underbelly Americana—neon, graffiti, beaten-up buildings—as carefully as he shot the underbelly of an older urban Americana—Goldfield’s clapboard saloon, its dusty cemetery, the family’s Airstream trailer. The music (Jonathan Segel), also pretty intense, switches continuously from Goetchius’ barroom-brawl piano playing to sinewy, blues guitar soundtrack to a multitude of other styles. The wilderness of the west, present day and past, is as much the subject of this film as is the story. Which is good, because the story and the writing are a bit tired. In the midst of weak plot twists and slack dialogue, this kind of Rockabilly sensibility—the look, the music, the culture—shines most brilliantly in “Love Will Travel”.