If a day or two of reflection dampened some of my enthusiasm for Men in Black 3–and "enthusiasm" is perhaps too generous of a word–then it had the opposite effect on my view of Julia Loktev's The Loneliest Planet. Based on a short story by Tom Bissell, the film follows Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) and his fiancee Nica (Hani Furstenberg) on a backpacking trip overseas, during which their relationship is tested. It has the kind of slow, we'll-get-there-when-we-get-there pace of other art house films, with an ending so open it might be more accurate to say it just stops, as if Loktev and her crew filmed until the money ran out and then went home.
The reason for the couple's trouble is small in one sense, but, in another, has enormous implications. As such, this movie, like Nuri Bilge Ceylan's magnificent Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, is about the little details and how they accumulate. So, while the initial experience of watching the movie was not as engrossing as I would have liked, the journey–and the movie is very much a journey–has stuck with me. We need those moments of Alex and Nica enjoying each other to appreciate the gulf that develops between them later on. To add more plot for the sake of a broader audience would be to demolish the world, and the atmosphere, Loktev creates–both of which are charged with meaning.
I don't regard The Loneliest Planet as highly as others do, but I respect Loktev's creative choices, and I look forward to seeing what she does next.