Swan Song (2021) [SXSW 2021]

An aging hairdresser is called back into action for one last hurrah. As he crosses his small town on foot, the viewer (and himself) find out who he is and what he is meant to do.

This tale of self-realization is written and directed by Todd Stephens and is one that should be watched. It’s a story about aging, careers gone possibly sideways, the world changing faster than some are ready for it, wanting to be remembered, looking for what one’s legacy might be without the usual things in place like kids or tangible art. This films takes a very flamboyant, or at least used to be, hairdresser who was the talk of the town and the one to see to look amazing, until the times caught up with him. The way the subject is handle here is what is the most important. The film approaches this aging person and makes him a fully fleshed person before sending him on his mission. The mission has twists and turns, but all feel quite organic to the story and show that not all roads are direct and that sometimes, one can go looking for something and find something else entirely and be completely satisfied with that. The film puts the right amount of emotions, sass, and a little sorta-nostalgia to connect the story with as many viewers as possible and it works. The mix here and how everything is handled is just right, making the film one that is easy to watch and easy to appreciate.

Playing the man at the center of everything, the hairdresser on a mission to find himself again and find what his legacy may be is Udo Kier. Kier is basically amazing here. Many are used to him in his more blood-soaked roles and this is not one of them. This is a more vulnerable, more emotional role for him and he nails it. He gives this aging hairdresser the attitude, sass, and emotional evolution that is needed for the film to have the right impact. He is the center of it all and both relishes in it and makes the most of it. His performance here is something to be seen and something to be paid attnetion to. He’s possibly the best he’s been in years. The other cast members are good as well, but Kier is the star here and really keeps the spotlight throughout the film.

The look of the film goes with the story and the performance, making it an intimate film that brings the viewer in and keeps them involved. The cinematography by Jackson Warner Lewis makes the story and its star shine, giving each quaint location its own personality while still centering the action around Kier. The work here is subtle while being on point. This is how you frame, light, and get a scene to look just right.

Swan Song is a film that bring emotions and lots of self-reflection along with a great lead performance by a sassy, vulnerable Udo Kier. The film is one that’s worth seeking out and making sure there is time for it. It’s one of those people will want to see without any disturbances as it requires that attention be paid to notice the small things, the nuances, and all the details.