Poughkeepsie is for Lovers, the new film directed by Bill Connington and Kelly Van Dilla, tells the story of hipster couple Charles (Played by Connington), a writer; and Eve (played by Natia Dune), a visual artist. Charles is bearded, heavily tattooed, and ruggedly handsome.  Eve is classically beautiful.  Going by its title alone, the movie may sound like a lightweight, Hallmark Channel-esque romantic comedy. For any native New Yorker who never gets any further north than the Bronx, Poughkeepsie would indeed seem like a different world altogether, despite being less than two hours from the Big Apple. The two main characters in Poughkeepsie is for Lovers do indeed leave their urban jungle for picturesque upstate New York.  However, it’s not for a romantic vacation.  Nor is it to experience the fresh air, the endless beauty of nature, or the laid-back lifestyle of the country. Their relocation is about survival in its purest form. Bold and provocative, Poughkeepsie is for Lovers is indeed an unorthodox love story, but it’s most assuredly NOT a comedy– except for those who can find the black humor in such lines as, “They didn’t bomb L.A. today… so I guess it’s a good day.”      

The plot for Poughkeepsie is for Lovers is hinted at with the movie’s Rorschach test-style opening credits.  These animated visuals are combined with haunting music — which sounds, prophetically, somewhat post-apocalyptic.  We then meet the movie’s titular lovers.  Watching the news on TV in the bedroom of their Brooklyn apartment, Charles asks Eve, “Is it weird watching a nuclear explosion right after we’ve had sex?” Eve answers, without a vestige of irony, “That’s just what life is now.”  For almost the entire rest of the movie, the only other humans we encounter are via voice only: the endless, albeit slowly dwindling, announcements of an escalating nuclear war with Russia.  At the suggestion of the government, the couple flee to a friend’s weekend home in Poughkeepsie.  As beautiful as their new surroundings are, however, things are going from bad to worse. Food, gas, and other essentials are dwindling.  Travel has become impossible. Mass hysteria seems to be taking over.  Relationships become strained. Eventually, there are orders to stay inside in the interest of safety.  Sound familiar?  Maybe… but the threat that looms over the heads of Charles and Eve would make the 2020 pandemic look like a flat tire.  The end of THIS crisis, after all, could quite literally be THE END– and in the words of one of the characters, “It could happen to us any time now.”  Charles cannot reach his six-year-old son, while Eve worries about her aging parents.  How do the two deal with the inevitable danger creeping up on them? With his many reflections on religion, we believe that Charles’ unyielding faith is a major factor.  Eve. meanwhile, seems to cope with life through unyielding realism, such as when she tells Charles, “I don’t know how to wait for the bombs to come…”  Is Charles’ strong faith, Eve’s pragmatic outlook, and their unique devotion to each other enough to save them?

Poughkeepsie is for Lovers is propelled almost entirely through the strength of Bill Connington as Charles and Natia Dune as Eve, although the aforementioned beauty of upstate New York does indeed become a character in its own right.  The filmmakers avoid any cinematic gimmickry or convoluted plot devices to tell their story; The raw performances of the actors and the natural outdoor scenery, given great justice by the cinematography, are indisputably enough on their own.  As a supreme example of the ageless style of cinéma-vérité, it seems like there isn’t a single wasted frame of footage or a single extraneous bit of dialogue in this movie. Nuclear war has rarely been explored via the cinema in the last few generations, but children of the ’80’s (like this reviewer) will no doubt have a flashback to when the subject was by far the predominant source of anxiety during that era… before the media moved on, en masse, to another emerging global fear: AIDS. If we, the audience, are going to watch a film with such heavy themes, we at least want the promise that there will be some hope for the characters as well as hope for humanity at large.  Poughkeepsie is for Lovers stirs up many emotions throughout its running time, and it indeed challenges its audience– but ultimately, the movie does honor that promise.

Poughkeepsie is for Lovers is now available for viewing.  You can see viewing options here.

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