Gael García Bernal, left, Bidzina Gujabidze and Hani Furstenberg in...

Gael García Bernal, left, Bidzina Gujabidze and Hani Furstenberg in "The Loneliest Planet." Credit: Gael García Bernal, left, Bidzina Gujabidze and Hani Furstenberg in "The Loneliest Planet."

The Loneliest Planet
1.5 stars
Directed by Julia Loktev
Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Hani Furstenberg, Bidzina Gujabidze
Not Rated

Engaged couple Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Nica (Hani Furstenberg) find their relationship tested over the course of a backpacking trip through the Caucasus Mountains in "The Loneliest Planet," writer-director Julia Loktev's second tightly controlled, minimalist portrait of humans under duress.

The filmmaker's previous effort, "Day Night Day Night," followed a prospective Times Square suicide bomber as she weighed whether to carry out the evil act, and it packed the sort of raw, existential power inherent in the premise. There's no such luck this time around.

That's because "The Loneliest Planet" simply fails to grab you. It's deadly dull, consisting in large part of languid long takes in which the characters and guide Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze) traipse through small villages or green fields framed against imposing mountains. A non-starter, the movie rejects tangible emotions for a cold, sinister tone that hints at compelling developments which simply don't arrive.

There's nothing inherently wrong with a movie requiring patience to process. Some of the best films have incorporated a similarly painstaking approach, relying on the subtlest of subtleties and the evocation of a particular mood. Plus, there's something to be said for the central conceit here: that the best test of a relationship is to take it well outside the usual comfort zone.

But Loktev's film crumbles under its deadening focus on bland minutiae. The characters are kept at such a distance, and the movie is so opposed to basic dramatic impulses, that it's like watching a stranger's vacation footage.

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