The Roads Not Taken: Film Review

The Roads Not Taken

With a talented cast including Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning, Laura Linney, and Salma Hayek, I was excited to see The Roads Not Taken, but it was one of the most frustrating movies I have seen for some time.

Sally Potter‘s movie follows a day in the life of Leo (Bardem), who lives on his own in New York City and suffers from dementia. We follow Leo as his daughter Molly (Fanning) pays him a visit and takes him to the dentist and optician, tasks which should be straightforward but are instead very stressful and complicated. As Molly struggles to get him from appointment to appointment, Leo relives parallel versions of his life in his mind, including life with ex-wife Dolores (Hayek) in Mexico and some time spent in Greece.

I can appreciate that Potter had good intentions with the film and wanted to shine a light on dementia in honour of her late brother Nic, but sadly her vision just didn’t come to life with The Roads Not Taken. It is a dull, bleak melodrama that was muddled and confusing, and felt way longer than its 85 minutes. I had trouble grasping whether the scenes in Mexico and Greece happened or not and I struggled to understand the point of the Greece segment at all.

The heart of the movie is in the present day, with Leo’s daughter struggling to look after him, and I would have liked more time to have been spent there. Fanning elevates these scenes with her emotional performance. You really feel for Molly having such a stressful, difficult day. Bardem gives an expressive performance but barely speaks in the present-day scenes and it’s hard to understand what he’s saying when he does. Linney is good value as Molly’s mother and Leo’s ex-wife but her appearance is small, same with Hayek. Although the story is meant to be about Leo and his battle with dementia, you never really get to know him and his carers get more of the limelight.

The Roads Not Taken is such a frustrating movie. I could appreciate what it was trying to say but it was not executed well. I disliked the structure, the jumping back and forth, and the stress of watching Molly try to get Leo to his appointments. And ultimately not much happens, so at the end, I felt like it hadn’t really gone anywhere and there wasn’t much point to it.

In cinemas Friday 11th September 

Rating: 2/5

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