Mar Del Plata 2015 Review: ROAD TO LA PAZ (CAMINO A LA PAZ) Is A Charming, Heartfelt, Deeply Humane Road Movie
When we first meet him, Sebastian is a very simple man in the process of renting a new apartment with his wife, Jazmin. She's looking to settle, perhaps looking forward a bit to children, and wants to take her time. But Sebastian? Sebastian sees the built in grill in the courtyard and tour over. We'll take it. They're that sort of couple: Jazmin holding down the steady job and paying the bills while Sebastian hangs about with his friends and dotes on the vintage Peugot 505 he inherited from his father. It's not that he's lazy so much as he is content. Things are working, so why rock the boat?
But life has a way of rocking itself and so, one day, in the doghouse and knowing he needs to make things up to Jazmin in a tangible way, Sebastian answers the phone. He's been answering the phone many times before this, of course. Many times, in fact, thanks to the couple being assigned the old number of a car hire service when they moved in - a clerical quirk that has kept the phone ringing off the hook while Jazmin waits for Sebastian to make good on his promise to call the phone company and change the number. But this time when he answers, instead of explaining to the caller that the have the wrong number, "Yes," Sebastian says, "this is the Magellan Car Service." And, just like that, Sebastian has a job. A job that quickly builds up a core group of repeat customers, among them the elderly Jalil.
At first Sebastian simply takes Jalil back and forth between doctor appointments but before long the elderly man makes a larger proposition. Part of the Argentine minority of Muslims and in failing health, Jalil asks Sebastian to drive him to meet with his elder brother so that the pair of them can make the Hajj - the pilgrimage to Mecca - while they are still physically able. The problem is that Jalil's brother lives in La Paz. Bolivia. Three thousand kilometers away.
And so we embark of the odyssey that is Road To La Paz, the debut feature from Francisco Varone. And while the odd couple road movie may not break any particularly new ground in terms of form or style it is a remarkable example of the power inherent in simply knowing what you want to do and doing it very, very well.
In Rodrigo de la Serna and Ernesto Suarez, Varone is blessed with a pair of remarkable lead performers both of whom bring layers of depth and pathos to their characters. Varone's script is littered with moments of gentle humor and he allows the relationship between his characters to grow naturally, the road doubling as a pathway to maturity for Sebastian as he slowly learns to shift his focus away from himself and on to larger issues. Jalil becomes both a father and a child figure for the younger man, a source of wisdom and correction who is also frail, delicate, and in need of tending to himself and it is that dynamic - both men giving and taking from the other - that drives the beating heart of the film.
When it comes to the religious aspect of Jalil's journey, Varone handles things with a very light touch. This is a movie about character - and characters - not about faith, per se, which in itself is a somewhat remarkable decision in the current day. It's easy to make the jihadi film in the current political climate, but to just quietly accept this frail, elderly man as caring, and generous, and wise and a Muslim as a matter of course, without making any sort of statement about it? That lack of a statement is itself a pretty loud and bold statement where Islam is concerned today and one that adds an intriguing layer of resonance.
Quietly funny, deeply empathic, laced with exotic imagery, Road To La Paz is a remarkably strong and assured debut from a very talented filmmaker, one who is hopefully just at the beginning of his own road.
Road to La Paz
- Francisco Varone
- Francisco Varone
- Rodrigo De la Serna
- Ernesto Suarez
- Elisa Carricajo
- Maria Canale