Page 1 of 3
This new Gael Garcia Bernal drama is uneven yet often wonderfully loopy....
MPI / 113 Minutes / 2012 / Unrated / Street Date: February 26, 2013
When I first read a synopsis of The Loneliest Planet, it sounded intriguing, and I have to admit, Gael Garcia Bernal is pretty easy on the eyes. The setting seemed like it would be striking enough to make me want to go, “Ooo! I want to go there!” (It was filmed in the Republic of Georgia’s countryside) I was also hooked by the idea of a happy couple’s relationship turning sour over one seemingly small slip up. You know, what one “little” thing could be so earth-shattering that it would change a good relationship so profoundly? I noticed the film was coming to the local campus independent film theater here, so I decided to check out what other people had to say to see if I wanted to plunk down $7 (I know! So cheap!) to see a two-hour movie about one short event. I have found other people’s reviews to be insightful into a movie when I’m wavering on whether to take the time to see a movie or not. Unfortunately, there was a lot of back and forth about whether this was a quiet, insightful film about human relationships or the most boring film on the planet where nothing happens. I didn’t end up plunking down my $7 at the movie theater, but I am fortunate enough to be able to review the movie and put in my two cents about just what this film is. You can add my opinion into the mix then make your own decision.
First of all, there isn’t a heck of a lot of dialogue in this movie, and, except for a few crucial scenes, the dialogue doesn’t contribute a whole bunch to the forwarding of the plot. Now, before you start reaching for the remote and hitting the fast forward button thinking their antics going twice as fast will seem twice as convincing and take half the time, remember that there have been very good, and yes, engaging films with little to no dialogue. The first one that comes to mind is the Korean film 3-Iron which makes The Loneliest Planet seem very talky indeed. The writer/director of The Loneliest Planet, Julia Loktev, seems to have a “show, don’t tell” mentality about the whole story. Our romantic duo, played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg, is out on vacation in Georgia, as I mentioned before. We are meant to interpret the depth of feelings they have for each other by little snippets of their time together. He helps bathe her by pouring pitchers of hot water over her head. They dance with the locals. They roll down grassy hills together. For the most part, I don’t mind this type of storytelling, provided I’m not looking at my watch every ten minutes going “when is something real actually going to happen?” Unfortunately, this happened to me at about the 25 minute mark during the first half of the movie. I got it that these kids dug each other. I was also a little nonplussed by some of the choices of shots. There was an extended shot (maybe 30 seconds or so) of Hani Furstenberg’s bright red curly locks being tossed about by the wind while in the back seat of a jeep heading down a dirt road. There is also an unnecessary shot of disembodied feet playing (what else) footsy in eternal bliss. I have to admit, I was getting a bit impatient.
After the pivotal moment of the film, which is a little shy of the hour mark, things begin to pick up a bit. There still isn’t a lot of plot-driven dialogue, but the actors are allowed to express a variety of complex emotions in their scenes together. There’s guilt, anger, care and consideration, awkwardness, courage and loyalty all displayed in the last half of the film. Although still slow moving, the “show, don’t tell” storytelling seems to work best here; it’s much better than the actor having to say “How could you?!” Sometimes, the subtlety of a look or a gesture can express so much more than even a well delivered line. That said, there is one line that I’m glad Loktev left in the movie, delivered by Furstenberg’s character, because it couldn’t be expressed another way: “So, what did they want?” It’s a poignant moment, because it’s tied, essentially, to the random event that changes their lives so abruptly. She doesn’t ask why any of it happened, but tries to make some sort of meaning out of it (that’s all I can say without giving anything away). If Loktev could have infused a bit more of this variety into her type of storytelling in the first half of the film, I would have embraced the Indie-ness of this movie whole heartedly.