Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour 53 minutes, Not Rated
Starring: Hani Furstentberg, Gael Garcia Bernal, Bidzina Gujabidze
Written &Directed by Julia Loktev (Day Night Day Night)
The Loneliest Planet can basically be divided into two halves, neither of which are that compelling. The film is based on the story “Expensive Trips Nowhere” by Tom Bissell, so I guess it is fitting as to where the story takes us
We follow a recently engaged couple, Nica (Hani Furstenberg) and Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) as they endure a backpacking trip across the Caucasus Mountains in the European republic of Georgia. They hire a guide, Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze) to navigate them through the tough terrain. Halfway through the film, a crucial moment occurs between the couple and it the kind of thing that men and women may react differently to, or perhaps not. The questions that spring from this single moment may lead you to ponder what you would do if faced with a similar situation.
Unfortunately, it’s really not that deep of a question nor all that interesting of a topic. I’m purposely keeping things vague as not to spoil the one instance of drama that The Loneliest Planet provides us.
There is scarce dialogue in this film and director Julia Loktev displays a patience that is uncommon in film. Leading up to “the moment,” the film painstakingly follows this couple on their seemingly uneventful trek. We are never given any reason to care for this couple, nor are we given any kind of back story on either of them. To the actors’ credit, there is a palpable chemistry between Alex and Nica that lets us know that they are deeply in love, each sharing the same adventurous spirit.
Mixing in scenes of close-up intimacy with incredible wide-shots where the characters are literally specks on the landscape, The Loneliest Planet does carry with it some thematic weight. But the visuals grow tedious as does the lack of anything remotely entertaining being shown. In fact, nothing happens for so long, it creates a weird tension that plays off of our expectations of – you know – our weird need for something to actually happen. When something finally does, we’ve been pulled so far from any emotional connection with these characters that we don’t necessarily care what occurs. Part of me kept wishing a mountain lion would just show up and end it already.
No such mountain lion comes along. Their brutally slow journey finally does end, giving us no insights or pay-off whatsoever. The questions raised here aren’t all that profound or even important. The Loneliest Planet is a long walk that makes the audience wish for a shorter pier.
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