Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
While it does have something profound to say about relationships and how one moment can make or break them, “The Loneliest Planet” takes so long to get to its rather poignant yet elusive point, that it may seem to some as a bit too meandering. BUT, if you can stay with it, independent writer/director Julia Loktev does deliver with a payoff that is hauntingly thought provoking, with a high potential for inducing provocative discussions. Written (adapted from a short story from Tom Bissell) and exquisitely directed by Loktev using a plethora of expressive long takes, “The Loneliest Plant” stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg and centers around a young, adventurous and engaged to be married couple, who travel on a backpacking trip along the Caucasus Mountains, lead by a local Georgian guide. Sounds riveting right? Well, the initial hour does play out like a rather dull, elongated version of a short story, but then something happens that essentially changes the entire relationship dynamic, and more importantly allows the second half of this 2 hour film to slowly blossom into a tragic and quite engaging dissection of the male and female roles in a relationship. At times “The Loneliest Planet” displays thematic similarities to 2012’s independent female relationship point of view film “Take This Waltz”, but Loktev seems to be able to get her female visual prospective across with slightly more clarity, while still keeping a fascinating air of ambiguousness.
The truth is “The Loneliest Planet” is a hard film to review because it is contingent on one scene (really one physical movement) an hour into the picture, that I can’t really talk about. But what I can say is that the latter half of the movie (after the big scene) although consists of Bernal and Furstenberg continuing to walk around the Caucasus Mountains (mostly in silence) is quite a moving piece of cinema that does show off Loktev’s Malick-esque directorial skills.
On the other hand, this film is not for everybody. What will ultimately hold this back for many, will be the (at times) too Independent for its own good feel of the entire picture, as Loktev holds on shots for minutes at a time where nothing seems to be going on, and spends a lot of time filming characters ad-libbing their dialogue. Other issues may come down to the free flowing (slow) pacing of “The Loneliest Planet”, which may leave many walking out of this movie questioning: Was Loktev’s introspective inquiries really worth the journey?
Final Thought: In my opinion this sort of Avant-garde piece about a couple under duress is very much a film geared more towards female audiences. That is to say, the main focus is not Bernal. He is only the vehicle that helps show the nature of the male counterpart. The real star of the show here is Furstenberg, who displays the complex prospective of a female outlook on relationships exceptionally well, and thusly what she goes through should be more fully understood by female audiences. That is not to say that men will not enjoy this film, but for most men, “The Loneliest Planet” may be too hard of a pill to swallow. Plus, if you are currently a male in a relationship, this is one movie that may only serve to plant the seed of an awkward conversation (which in turn, probably is the point).
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