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Song to Song

From left: Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling in "Song to Song." Broad Green Pictures photo

Faye (Rooney Mara) is out to make it big in music, which explains her presence in Austin, Texas. The city seems to be an ongoing festival of sound, bursting with music-industry bigshots — including Cook (Michael Fassbender), with whom Faye becomes involved. He could be good for her career.

Faye also attracts the attention of songwriter BV (Ryan Gosling), who has a business relationship with Cook. A romantic triangle emerges in which Faye keeps her affair with Cook to herself as BV begins to question whether he’s being cheated out of songwriting royalties.

But the triangle proves to be short-lived when Cook makes another sexual conquest: a spirited waitress named Rhonda (Natalie Portman), who may live to regret having anything to do with him.

These four characters are caught up in a music scene in which changing partners is not uncommon — and in which no one finds it particularly troubling to see a young woman spread out naked and covered with sushi.

Austin is no place for Faye and BV to be in love, but they knew that before they rushed into the competitive fray. The only question is whether they can achieve success without sacrificing something far more precious: dignity.

“Song to Song” is the latest film from writer-director Terrence Malick, whose reputation largely rests on his classic films “Badlands” (1973) and “Days of Heaven” (1978). Critics praised his 2011 film, “The Tree of Life,” but were far less enthusiastic about “To the Wonder” (2012) and “Knight of Cups” (2015).

With “Song to Song,” Malick continues to explore a style of storytelling that, depending on one’s point of view, is either experimental or pretentious. The film is perhaps best described as dreamlike — all the information is there, but unpacking its meaning may take some work.

Some moviegoers will find the experience frustrating; others will be exhilarated by a film that’s far afield from the usual formulas.

What “Song to Song” • Three stars out of four • Run time 2:09 • Rating R • Content Sexuality, nudity, drug use and language