This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
rotund’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
So nakedly innocent and heartrending.
By all accounts, Buffalo ‘66 has an outlandish premise that is so shaky that it could’ve easily taken a turn not just for the worse, but bland. Instead, the film takes the much less conventional turn at every opportunity and does so effectively and naturally.
The smart use of framing and the constantly moving camera try to keep the audience's attention, as is the case with the dinner and the diner scene, but it never feels without purpose. It's not easy to articulate why I love Buffalo '66 so much -- perhaps I see something in Billy that resonates with me, or perhaps this is clearly a personal film Gallo felt he needed to make, or maybe both and more; but the film flows with such idiosyncratic beauty that it's hard to look away and not feel touched in some way.
Throughout much of the film, Layla doesn't speak or speaks only when she's asked to do so. Some could consider this film a sexist one, and I wouldn't argue against it, but I strangely don't feel this way. With her pixie-like dress, Layla has a surreal feel to her, almost like she's part of Billy's imagination. She has no resemblance of any agency throughout the film, and we don't see her operate alone without Billy -- except for the magnificent tap dance sequence where the film allows us to glimpse at her frame of mind for a brief moment. Billy's lack of acknowledgment of her performance is either in line with how rude his character can be, or that the performance happened only in Layla's imagination. Either way, Layla is suspiciously too perfect a captive to be real, but Ricci manages to make it so anyway.
The conclusion is one of the rare moments in cinema, at least for me, where the happy ending feels completely earned. Again -- this could've been so easily botched by Billy going to Layla and giving some passionate soliloquy (he never shuts up in this film) about why he loves her, but the film instead shows Billy's euphoria with exceptional grace -- among unintended recipients no less, which somehow elevates the sequence. It's a cathartic moment not just for Billy but for the audience as well, and it comes as a complete surprise, hence hits like a ton of bricks.
Billy’s path to salvation lies not in the past but in the future, just like the rest of us. It helps to have someone who lets you know of your worth along the way, so that you can keep finding the will to endure what life ceaselessly throws at you.
This is a near-perfect film and I'm so glad to have watched it.