Film review: Road to La Paz

In Association with Glasgow Film Festival

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Road to La Paz is a Spanish language driving movie, the majority of the film confined to the dashboard of Sebastian’s father’s Peugeot 505. The film follows Sebastian (Rodrigo de la Serna), who has recently moved into a cramped flat with his wife Jazmin (Elisa Carricajo) in Buenos Aires. His house phone has somehow been mixed up with a cab driving company, and after multiple unwanted customers, Sebastian decides to take them up on their offers. One consistent passenger, Jalil (Ernesto Suarez), asks Sebastian for a much longer journey: to Bolivia, to meet his brother.

In essence the film is about materialism and exposure to different viewpoints. Sebastian and Jalil’s initial encounter is somewhat adversarial, but subtle comedy seeps its way in here and at darker moments later on, bringing these two stubborn, ageing men together. Sebastian likes to listen to rock music and smoke in his car, whereas Jalil would rather eat his garlic in peace. Jalil tells Sebastian about his experiences and stories, which Sebastian initially finds tiresome, but comes to respect his way of thinking over the course of the journey. Jalil does push Sebastian’s boundaries, much to his displeasure, and occasionally, oversteps them. But these sides are integral to the ebb and flow of the relationship. The road to Bolivia presents more than mere physical obstacles, which appear frequently.

The turning point in the film really surged through me. It wasn’t about how Sebastian just needed the money, but he was aware that he had accepted this journey beyond mere financial difficulties. And it pays off in both senses: Jalil gives Sebastian something of more value than the old 505, more than the canine companionship, and worth the 2,000 mile ride home.

Religion and faith do come to these characters in their time of need: Jalil, a devout Muslim, exposes Sebastian to his beliefs and other Muslims during their time together. These small experiences of the Muslim way of life culminate in an extremely touching story told by Jalil on faith and courage, and the sincerity of Jalil’s behaviour brings this film into its own. A stellar performance by Suarez, well complemented by de la Serna’s yearning and rugged supporting role.

[Evan Osborne]

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