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Javier Bardem Drifts In and Out of Reality in Sally Potter’s

Writer-director Sally Potter opens her tender new drama, “The Roads Not Taken,” in a reasonably uncommon manner — with strictly audio on a clean display screen. During this time, we hear automobile horns and different road site visitors. As we get snug with that acquainted chaos, the director brings us to a person mendacity serenely in mattress because the noise from exterior filters by way of his open window.

It is exactly this conflict of sounds and areas that Potter to which regularly factors us all through the film. Javier Bardem performs Leo, a person affected by an unknown (and nearly unstated of) psychological sickness. He always floats out and in of his bustling New York City actuality to rural Mexico the place he grieves the loss of a kid along with his accomplice, Dolores (Salma Hayek). He additionally drifts over to a obscure Greek island the place he struggles to seek out inspiration as a author. It’s these luscious, affecting transitions — because of the spectacular sound mixing and Robbie Ryan’s lovely cinematography — that instantly hooks audiences even earlier than we totally notice what’s happening.

Leo’s daughter, Molly (Elle Fanning), is pissed off on a bus as she swiftly makes her manner by way of the hustle and bustle to her dad’s residence. She’s on the cellphone along with his caretaker, Xenia (Branka Katic, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), who tells her he’s not answering the door. He’s additionally not choosing up any of Molly’s cellphone calls.

After lastly arriving at Leo’s house, Molly’s grievance evaporates to offer approach to a complete new emotion other than his nebulousness, Xenia’s palpable nervousness, and even her personal disquiet: hope. Because at present Molly will accompany Leo to his dentist and optometrist appointments, and she or he is set to make it an important day.

Potter curiously spends no time spelling out precisely what’s ailing Leo. Is it his thoughts? Is it his physique? Bardem provides him a really pensive gait as Molly energetically guides him out of his house and onto the sidewalk. He’s additionally unable to type sentences or to understand his environment. Maybe it’s his coronary heart? The title alludes to the notion that these beautiful passages could be shaped out of regrets he’s had in his life that he’s by no means truly skilled.

But that’s not totally clear within the movie, which crops the viewers in his viewpoint, as we all know little about Potter’s protagonist and what, if something, is actual. He seems to be youthful and sprightlier in these peripheral narratives, which may simply point out that they occurred prior to now. There’s by no means actually a time once we can query him as a dependable character who’s merely reflecting on precise reminiscences, even because the filmmaker redirects our gaze to Molly with him in New York. But possibly that’s Potter’s goal — to evoke compassion from her viewers.

Fanning’s portrayal, even with the little info we’ve got about Molly as effectively, is surprisingly heartrending. Through her touching efficiency, you may really feel Molly’s optimism waver as Leo takes a tumble on the bottom on the way in which to his appointment and struggles to grasp what his eye physician tells him to do. But Molly tries to attach along with her father — or, as she calls him, papá — by way of a shared youthful spirit as she, as an illustration, does a dance to encourage him to step out of the pants he dirty whereas within the physician’s workplace. For kicks, she buys herself a brand new pair to put on similar to his.

These fluctuations of tone, countered by Molly’s fierce safety of her father, assist elevate Potter’s screenplay as she goals to convey a portrait of a person who’s not all the time residing inside our actuality. After Molly takes her dad to the emergency room following his fall, she exasperatedly asks why everybody, together with his medical doctors, refers to Leo as if he’s not right here. To which his ex-wife and Molly’s mom, Rita (Laura Linney), responds, “Well, is he?”

Bolstered by Bardem’s fantastically layered efficiency punctuated by faraway smiles and occasional indignance, Leo does appear…

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