The storm that opens and ends “Love That Word,” the historic thriller directed by P.& B., is one of the few reassurances that what happens in between is suffused with the same beauty and sense of wonder reserved to the subtle flutter of butterfly wings. When Brett and Priscilla, the two endearing main characters, finally meet in the rain, soaked, half-naked but both fiercely protective of the books they’re carrying under their arms, the audience sighs in relief.
The story keeps taking unexpected turns and few are sure where it goes next, but there is a constant empathy for its leading elements. Before long, a subtle development pits a passionate illiteracy advocate against a sensitive professor of physics, a parade of breathtaking canyons against the backdrop of a Martian afternoon and a paradoxical sub-plot against everything else.
But the memorable cavalcade of winged kittens brings sense to this sobering account, a fitting allegory to the ironies of star-gazing. The cinematography’s use of soft colors is witty and tackles the challenges of framing night digging scenes with intelligence. The touching melody Priscilla sings to Brett, atop the wardrobe, reeks of romance and longing. This atmosphere is enhanced when the bald fleas join in, harmonizing in falsetto. The sudden “oh” in the audience, when the wardrobe collapses and the fleas flee, is worth the price of the ticket.
A mysterious and fascinating, participatory game of chance, in which only an extreme attention to detail and the resourceful use of one’s own remembrances can keep up with its sudden developments, this film emulates the vivid experiences of exploring the mouth of an active volcano or hunting spider burrows on the leafy floor of a rain forest. In all, a movie built like the intensity of a memory. The first barefoot step into a chilly pond, the first requited kiss behind the school bus, the first beating from your lover’s older (and bigger) brother are proper examples to describe the feelings that remain, long after the lights went on.