Por el Camino is a road film set in Uruguay. Santiago is a young man from Argentina who is visiting some land purchased by his parents, now dead in a car accident. Juliette is a free-spirited Belgian travelling aimlessly through South America.
The film starts quite slowly, with little in the way of plot or character development. While the interesting local colour and scenery were enough to keep my attention I started to wonder if the story was ever going anywhere. Elements of the classic road trip story are apparent – a chance encounter leading to a joint journey, bits of romantic tension, intriguing side trips to see strange people - but the main characters were so indistinct that it was hard to care much what happened to them.
However, patience and understatement do build to an impact. We get to know Santiago and Juliette a lot more in the second half of the film, though even then in a roundabout way. Although we know Santiago has a car, worked on Wall Street and has inherited property, it is not clear until late in the film that he is a rich kid. He and Juliette stay with his uncle in his beautiful, eccentric estate which has become especially valuable as it is near a party town, some kind of Uruguayan Riviera. Here we see Santiago among his peers, the rich and beautiful. He is even introduced to a tall black British model (I thought the film was trying too hard to suggest supermodel Naomi Campbell but it turns out it actually was Naomi Campbell - hilarious). This is the existence Santiago is trying to escape on the road and what draws him to Juliette. She doesn’t like this side of him though and disappears to go visit a commune. Even life on the commune doesn’t suit either of them and the problem of how to find a place in society is never resolved. What is discovered is the beauty and integrity of the landscape and a past way of life which may be lost.
This film looks really good, and director Charly Braun has made (sparing) use of different film stocks and effects, especially to illustrate memories. Braun isn’t showy in his techniques but they are unusual and make this film subtle and intriguing.
Watch the trailer here. The film plays on Sep 29th at 11:00am at Empire Granville 7 Th 2, Oct 3rd 6:20pm at Empire Granville 7 Th 3 and Tue, Oct 4th 11:40am at Empire Granville 7 Th 3. Beause the characters speak different languages much of the film is in English, so subtitlephobes, this one is for you.