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Now this is a calmly-paced film if there ever was one. It was hard work to get through the 110 minutes … a young couple on a hiking trip through the beautiful Georgian countryside, some of these “individual tourists” of the name-providing tourist guidebook’s target audience. Smiling at chatty old ladies they don’t understand, taking pictures of peeing pigs, walking down hills, walking along rivers, walking across planes, practicing Spanish verbs, having sex, doing gymnastics on an abandoned bus… the things you do on a backpacking trip, little or no excitement, I guess you could call it “savouring the boredom of remoteness”.

The difference to the reality of such a trip is that this is a movie and while part of the appeal of real-life tourism of this kind is the possibility that something will go awry, in a movie the audience can be absolutely sure about this. Something is about to happen, there will be a turning point of sorts. The longer nothing happens, the more eager you get, and when it finally comes… it comes in a non-dramatic way. Now, “non-dramatic” can be a subtle script tool, but here I found the turn of events to be handled clumsily. For a while, I even refused to believe that this had actually been what everything built up to. This, I thought, is the reason why I was exposed to this sluggish pace all along? There will be more, right, this will turn out to be a trick moment, the way the odd noises in a horror film turn out to be a cat, providing temporary relief, with the slasher turning up from behind the curtain just a moment later?

No, not here. The idea is, presented in BOLD LETTERS, to show the possible impact of minor gestures and actions, and to demonstrate that despite all the talking, you never know who you are (or who your partner is) until driven to some sort of extreme. This is where people show their true faces. This is all fine, and an interesting aspect to put into a film about two young and somehow idealistic kids. But handled the way it is here, it was a letdown for me. I was unable to believe in the impact it had, in the permanent change of behaviour of Gael Garcia Bernal’s character. I was actually annoyed by that either this is clumsily written OR he is a very  annoying and whiny character. “Pull yourself together!” I wanted to shout at his melancholic and self-loathing (pretty) face.

For what it’s worth, the whole setting is utterly beautiful, as if taken right out of the Georgian tourist board book, and it conveys the appeal as well as the downside of such raw beauty. If Lonely Planet tourists, it seems to say, expose themselves to the rawer side of existence, they are more than naïve, they are utterly stupid, if all they expect is a slightly more dirty version of a Club Med setting with dirty kids playing on the streets and bearded men telling tales of yonder on the camp fire while drinking Chacha. This can be the foundation of an interesting film. This is not that film.

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