Love Streams (1984)

Review #1,319

Director:  John Cassavetes
Cast:   Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Diahnne Abbott, Seymour Cassel
Plot:  Two closely bound, emotionally wounded siblings reunite after years apart.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won Golden Bear & FIPRESCI Prize (Berlin).
Runtime:  141min
Rating:  Not rated.  Likely to be PG13 for some sexual references.
Distributor:  Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
International Sales:  Hollywood Classics

“Love is a stream, it's continuous… it doesn't stop.”

The final work of John Cassavetes—Big Trouble (1986), which he vehemently disowned, doesn't count—Love Streams sees him and his wife Gena Rowlands play siblings in this searing drama on the nature of love and family. 

Winning the Golden Berlin Bear, and made when Cassavetes was told he had a terminal illness, Love Streams remains underseen as compared to his more famous works like A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976), but it is no less a superb work by one of America's most respected independent filmmakers. 

Robert (Cassavetes) and Sarah (Rowlands) are wounded souls struggling to cope with life's tremendous and damning load of problems.  Robert is a filthy rich loner who happens to be a well-regarded writer, spending his days drinking and having not the slightest interest in a long-term relationship.  He has temporary flings, willing to spend loads of cash, and has a temporary burden to take care of his son—whom he hasn't seen for years—when his ex-wife shows up on his doorstep one day. 

Sarah, in another narrative thread, is finalizing divorce arrangements, only to be confronted by the fact that her daughter wants to live with her dad.  Prone to nervous breakdowns and occasional theatrics, she finds increasingly bizarre ways to make things 'right'.

Love Streams features extraordinary performances by the duo—there's a quiet intensity to Cassavetes' acting, which dovetails nicely with Rowlands' more explosive approach.  They meet about an hour into the film, and whatever character development that has been built up by this point turns into an incisive drama between brother and sister, one that explores the nature of love in all of its beautiful and tragic—if also intensely experienced—manifestations. 

The film is also notably bold and unconventional, with Cassavetes opting to imbue it with a heavy surreal touch, with multiple shifts in tone especially in the final act.  It may not always work, but it is inspiring to see the director take such risks.  With the Criterion Collection taking pains to restore this on home video, Love Streams is now made more accessible and we can now admire this last hurrah from a truly unique filmmaker.

Verdict:  Cassavetes and Rowlands team up once again for a final hurrah with this incisive if also surreal drama that explores love in all of its beautiful and tragic manifestations.


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