Sunday, August 2, 2009

Jay's Review: El Camino

This is review number three over at DVDsnapshot. This time I take a look at a road trip movie (watched, no less, during a road trip) called "El Camino."



Set against a changing American landscape, “El Camino" follows Lily (Elizabeth Moss) as she travel across the country with Gray (Chris Denham) and Elliot (Leo Fitzpatrick) with their friends ashes in hand. The film is full of surprises. As these young adults confront their unrealized selves and their grief, nothing happens the way we expect.


How can you have “The Great American Road Trip” in a Volvo Station Wagon?

“El Camino,” which the film takes pains to point out means “the journey” or “the path,” is the story of a road trip involving three people with nothing in common beyond a dead friend. The “official synopsis” is a bit misleading as our main character is actually more Elliot than of Lily, and he remains something of a cipher the whole way through.

In this setting of “road trip,” what’s actually tackled is loss and youth. Loss in the sense of losing touch with our childhood, our friends, and our parents. Youth in the sense of the great American extended perpetual adolescence. Gray has daddy issues and fears being one just like his dear old. Elliot lost both his parents and friend (from their foster home days). He holds the world at bay with his video camera. Lily is that elusive creature that only exists on celluloid, the “indie film girl.” She’s a stripper who smokes, wears a lot of wigs, and acts like a free spirit. Watch out for Wes Studi as the “Magical Indian Mechanic.” He pops in and out fairly quickly to be the counterpoint of the good, present father; mentioning a son in Iraq who’s implied to clearly be possessed of goals, focus, and maturity.

Phone calls home come in threes to show progress. Encounters with children (don’t they say just the darndest things?) also come in threes. Everything is laid out with tight story structure, arcs planned in screenwriting 101 structure.

While there’s little here you haven’t seen before, that’s not to say this isn’t a good film. Every road trip is unique, following its own rules and rhythms. This one is no different. With excellent music and shots of country flying by, it’s Americana at an even clip. These travel companions aren’t that empathetic, but are pleasant enough in their quiet moments to pleasurably pass the time with.


The disc starts straight to menu and offers four options: Play, Chapters, Setup, and Extras.

Setup will give you options for 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo, along with a lovely photo of a rusted-out car. Don’t expect any subtitles.

Extras offers you:

- the trailer for the film

-a selection of out-takes offered with or without Director’s commentary

-“Gravity,” a 17 minute short-film by the same director. This one involves an American and a German soldier, both trapped in the trees by their parachutes. Their brief connection feels honest. Worth a watch.

The film is 87 minutes long and unrated.


An Indie Film’s Indie film, this in a somewhat aimless journey into the lands of the protracted American adolescence. Elizabeth Moss is breaking out with “Mad Men,” and turning in fine, quiet work here with a character that’s not realistic but a pleasant travel companion. The characters follow their arcs tightly, but the landscape flies by as lulling as it does during a real road trip.

There’s no nudity and a splash of strong language, but on the whole you can be a teen up and find something to take away from this.


Movie: B-
Disc: B-

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