Since Robert Machoian moved to Utah four years ago, he said he’s been thinking a lot about moral conflicts. That is, he’s become increasingly aware of how people navigate wanting to do the right thing and living according to their values, but so often run into challenges as they confront others who don’t share their view of the world.
“How do you consistently live your beliefs, allow other people to live their beliefs and have love exist regardless? That’s really complicated,” Machoian said.
It’s a struggle that plays out throughout Machoian’s latest film, “The Killing of Two Lovers,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Monday night.
The film is about a husband, David — played by Clayne Crawford, — trying to get back together with his wife, Nikki — played by Sepideh Moafi, — who has started seeing someone else. The three of them are each pursuing what they feel is right, but they’re creating roadblocks for each other in the process.
“Dave is trying to save his marriage, Nikki's trying to grow and Derek [Nikki’s boyfriend] is falling in love with somebody that he's desperately trying to impress,” Machoian said. “Those are actually good pursuits, but they conflict.”
Machoian, a photography professor at BYU, said the film grew out of his experience in Utah. He wrote it while staying at a friend’s studio in Kanosh, a town of roughly 500 where the film was eventually shot. He said the town — a small, struggling community set against a backdrop of idyllic, snowy mountains — embodied those dynamics between the ideal and the reality.
Machoian is a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And while not originally from Utah, he said one thing he’s noticed in the state is the complicated balance that church members in particular have to walk. The church emphasizes family life and marriage, for instance, and while the ideal versions of those things might be easy to understand, they’re not as easy to achieve.
“The ideology of marriage is beautiful, right?” he said. “Then the realities of marriage are more complicated.”
But, Machoian said, if the film can help people work through some of their challenges, he’ll consider it a success.
"The Killing of Two Lovers" is playing Thursday, Jan. 30, and Friday, Jan. 31, in Park City and Saturday, Feb. 1 in Salt Lake City.
Jon Reed is a reporter for KUER. Follow him on Twitter @reedathonjon