Review by Dan Skip Allen
Sally Potter is a self-made filmmaker. She wrote and directed seven films before her latest, The Roads Not Taken. She takes a personal stance in many of her films, but this seems to be her most personal yet. A film about a man who needs constant care is not something you see every day. It's a topic that is difficult to talk about in a film, and The Roads Not Taken doesn't take a straightforward approach to it either.
Leo (Javier Bardem) is a man that needs twenty-four-hour care for his dementia. His daughter, Molly (Elle Fanning) watches him sometimes, but she has a career of her own to consider. While taking Leo out to his appointments, she notices that he goes in and out of consciousness, causing her to become concerned about his well-being. While in his subconscious mind, he spends time with his former lover, Dolores (Selma Hayek). Molly asks her mother Rita (Laura Linney), Leo's ex-wife, for advice on his problems, but no one has any answers.
Bardem has had a great career so far. He has had many iconic roles, including Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men (for which he won an Academy Award), fan-favorite villain Silva in Skyfall, and Juan Antonio from Vickie Christina Barcelona. His career is as varied as the many different roles he has portrayed. He is an actor that can choose any role he wants, allowing him to work with any filmmaker he chooses. This is a very different role for him. He gives it his all, but he is not the problem with this film.
The story should have just focused on Leo and his dementia and not gone off in such a strange direction. The actors all turn in a noble effort with the dialogue and script, but even they can't save a film with no direction. If Potter had focused more on the relationship between Molly, Leo and his ex-wife Rita, it would have been more interesting.
Films about dementia should move the person watching them. Films like Still Alice and What They Had capture what family and friends are going through dealing with a person with dementia. The emotions they feel are palpable. It becomes a situation where they don't want to deal with this person anymore. The Roads Not Taken unfortunately didn't have that effect at all. Though the acting was really solid, this film is mostly disappointing.
The Roads Not Taken is now streaming online as part of a virtual cinema initiative.
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