Title: “The Loneliest Planet”

Director: Julia Loktev

The vast wilderness of this planet is so far removed and remote from our perceptions of how we live in it every day. Interacting with our surroundings usually involve the geography of a city, town, suburb or even village. Being surrounded by miles and miles of wilderness, mountains, rivers and plains would seem foreign to most of us, which is why the title for the latest film from filmmaker Julia Loktev is so apt. “The Loneliest Planet” explores the terrane of the Georgian countryside. Easily put, it feels like another planet, not of our own, but just as lonely.

The story follows two lovers, Nica and Alex (Hani Furstenberg and Gael García Bernal), backpacking through the country of Georgia, once part of Russia. The story involved, and I use that term “story” very loosely, is more of a mood piece and a character study. Nica and Alex are led by a backpacking guide named Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze), and their interactions with him are just as engaging and magnificent as they interact with each other. I hate to say that the landscape and terrane are also characters, so I’m not, but rather their interaction with their surroundings whether that be a creek or other passersby would be a good substitute. Either way, filmmaker Julia Loktev engrosses the audiences with small details and social gestures, which makes the film an interest to watch.

The film is quiet. A film set in the wilderness of a foreign land needs to be. There are no politics between characters, no cultural differences, just people interacting with people and the world surrounding them. The moments don’t lay on huge, plot-driven moods but rather small, intimate moments between two lovers about to get married. Their wondrous gaze on the landscapes, peoples and cultures reflects the audiences wondrous gaze. It’s easy to get lost while watching these moments unfold on the screen but the filmmaker does a great job keeping your interest and focusing the audience on this couple. Their confusion is our confusion, their relationship is our relationship with the film. Like any intimate relationship worth pursuing, it’s not an easy battle, well neither is this movie but it’s just as rewarding.

There’s a certain point in this movie where this wondrous mood shifts into something more reflective and intense. The young couple struggles with their decisions and reactions to a moment that is rather frightening. Again, this is played with the audiences expectations of how would we react in that same situation, and more importantly, how would we react to the outcome of that situation. The young couple sits uneasy as do the members of the audience while they sit in the theater. The reflective nature of this film reminded me of a film that was released earlier in the year, Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life”. Only in terms of photography and mood, “The Loneliest Planet” is not as abstract as Malick’s picture but it is as resonant and emotionally moving, albeit more precise.

Although a majority of this film are beautiful shots of landscapes, capturing the richness of this land, there is a certain claustrophobia to them. We see the characters interact with this land and we know what they’re dealing with internally, it feels as if we want the characters to run away to surroundings more familiar to them and the audiences. Never capturing the vastness of the sky lends to this claustrophobic feeling, which works extremely well in the picture.

A huge takeaway from this film was the emergence of the beautiful Hani Furstenberg. Her presence on the screen is the audiences connection to this film, it’s magnetic. She brings a certain grace with her smile and confidence but at the same time, it can turn on a dime with a longing and confusion that will envelop the viewer with pathos. Not many actors have that range along with grace, which, to me, was just so refreshing. The strengths of the actors is what makes this film so grounded and special. Not to take away from Gael García Bernal and Bidzina Gujabidze, who both do great jobs in this movie, considering Bidzina Gujabidze is not a professional actor and was cast because he’s a damn good guide, they’re performances work because of Hani Furstenberg’s Nica.

A film like “The Loneliest Planet” is perfect for the New York Film Festival. It strikes a great mood and balance between character study and mood piece. This film is a special one and I highly recommend anyone experiencing it.

“The Loneliest Planet” is screening on Oct 1st and Oct 4th in New York City.

Technical: A-

Story: B-

Overall: B+

by @Rudie_Obias

The Loneliest Planet

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By Rudie Obias

Lives in Brooklyn, New York. He's a freelance writer interested in cinema, pop culture, sex lifestyle, science fiction, and web culture. His work can be found at Mental Floss, Movie Pilot, UPROXX, ScreenRant, Battleship Pretension and of course Shockya.com.

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