No Way To Live (2017) Review

1950s noir-thriller is a twisty story of love and violence.

No Way To Live is a 2017 drama about an interracial teenage couple in the 1950’s American South, who rob and steal to escape their oppressive town, but when violence erupts they are forced to confront their own dark secrets.

In the waning decades of the Jim Crow law years, the southern United States was still gripped by severe racial segregation and bigotry that divided many. It has been source for a number of films about civil rights atrocities and the impact it had on those at its center, including interracial couples who simply wanted to live normal lives in a time when that wasn’t possible.

Now comes No Way To Live, set in the 1950s south where the ‘colored’ are not much welcome, forced to eat outside at restaurants and not allowed in many shops. During this time, we meet Monty (Tom Williamson), a traveling vacuum salesman who comes upon a white man’s home who greets him with a double-barreled shotgun and a pretty brunette daughter (Freya Tingley). Her name’s Nora and there’s an instant attraction between she and Monty, so much so, they end up making a plan to escape their lives and run off with some money stored in a suitcase under her father’s bed. But as they go on the run, falling in love, things are discovered and truths are learned that change everything. Maybe no one is who they claim to be.

Written and directed by Nick Chakwin and David Guglielmo, No Way To Live is a tragedy of sorts, a story as much about the times these people live in as the trouble they find themselves in. It begins like a love story, evolves into a kind of Natural Born Killers before twisting into a pulpy film noir full of violence and revenge. The bold shifts in the narrative are shocking and played as such and while it does so, the film repositions the characters and our sympathies, though there is something suspect about them from the start. The reveals are incremented so that each turn of the screw paints us into a new corner until it’s quite clear that one of these characters is more than troubled, they are outright deviant.

No Way To Live
No Way To Live, 2017 © Modernciné

No Way To Live is unconventional in its approach, a sometimes quite story that feels a bit like an homage to 50s serial films with a modern twist. That might be why it’s not nearly as violent or as sexual as a contemporary movie in the same vein, though that’s not to say it isn’t dark. While it plays out with 50s music and a 50s attitude, these are not good people, their fates anything if not gruesome. 

Chakwin and Guglielmo avoid many of the tropes of modern filmmaking and as such, the movie sometimes feels a little off center, the lack of pronounced score (it’s mostly discordant piano chords) and no flashy cuts leave it feeling more and more like a throwback. But be sure, Chakwin and Guglielmo give it a lot of style without overdoing it, the duo very good storytellers.

No Way To Live draws its greatest strength from the performances, with Tingley clearly having some fun as Nora, her acting style also retro with bold gestures and batting eyes. Williamson is good too, though the film’s push at the start about civil rights is only a false front as it quickly shifts from that to the relationship. Williamson in the only black person in the cast and while there are some perfuctory moments that showcase segregation, it’s barely necessary for the story. But that’s hardly a problem. It’s the story that ultimately compels, one that has plenty of surprises with great direction and terrific atmosphere. There are terrible depths of madness one might fall to under the oppressive weight of a troubled past and learning how far one might go to be free of it makes for a disturbing experience ending with a pitch-perfect final frame full of symbolism.

No Way To Live Releases July 17 on iTunes, DVD, and Blu-Ray

No Way To Live (2017) Review

Movie description: No Way To Live is a 2017 drama about an interracial teenage couple in the 1950's American South, who rob and steal to escape their oppressive town, but when violence erupts they are forced to confront their own dark secrets.

Director(s): Nick Chakwin, David Guglielmo

Actor(s): Freya Tingley, Tom Williamson, Paul Rae

Genre: Drama

  • Our Score
User Rating 5 (4 votes)
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