I always enjoy films that try to do something unique and I give kudos to director Julia Loktev for what she was trying to accomplish with "The Loneliest Planet" despite the fact that I thought she failed. The movie follows Alex (the usually wonderful Gael Garcia Bernal) and Nica (Hani Furstenberg) who are backpacking through the beautifully shot Caucasus Mountains in Georgia with their local guide (Bidzena Gujabidze). We see the newlyweds as they trek over this wonderful landscape, trading small talk, playing games and just enjoying the scenery. After a bit they come across an older man with is two sons and a moment of misunderstanding causes Alex to commit a 2-3 second motion which has far reaching implications for the couple and changes the mood of the relationship.
The main problem is that this moment takes over an hour to materialize and I almost missed it. While this moment is supposed to truly impact the characters, I never really got the sense that either character was really impacted by that incident and that is what truly ruins the film for me. The film has incredible cinematography that really works well within the framework of the film creating a fourth character out of the landscape. The film tries to keep everything else real as some scenes around the campfire are overly dark and it can be hard to understand the dialogue at times as they go for that natural sound effect. Normally, I would not mind this, or the fact that the foreign languages are not subtitled when they appear, but I never truly got the impact of the pivotal moment which happens about an hour into the film. This film depends on us really feeling the momentary portrayal of Alex but the moment doesn't leave me feeling anything. While this might be how things are in real life, on the big screen we need a little more to bring this overly long movie to an emotional payoff worthy of the big screen.
I see enough to make me interested in what Julia will work on next but not enough to make me recommend this movie to anyone but the true film diehards. This films needed to be scaled back in length and more powerful emotions around the incident. I cannot give this film a good recommendation and it will gather a dismal D+ rating mainly for the cinematography.
The film opens today at the Min Art Theatre in Royal Oak.