Directed by Marc Evans, Patagonia (2010) tells two parallel stories about road journeys, one in Argentina and the other in Wales. The premise seems promising enough and could have resulted in a great movie. Instead it only leads to a vacuously expended hour and half of my life that I won’t get back. But before I expand on my reasons for resenting the entire experience let me give a quick nod to what’s worth appreciating.
Firstly, it should be said that the cinematography, from Robbie Ryan, is beautiful and creates a breath-taking dichotomy between the two landscapes; on the one hand the lush, Welsh valleys and modern cityscape of Cardiff and, on the other hand, the dust roads and unending plains of Argentina, pocked with broken down cars and tattered chapels. This alone might have kept me riveted for sometime had not the second rate plot and dialogue kept on getting in the way.
As a whole, Patagonia gives the impression of attempting to be art-house, with pseudo-intellectual, though ultimately lightweight, concepts and nifty, but insubstantial, narrative threads. Basically, it’s the old story of pretension grappling with authenticity and soundly losing the fight. There’s no coherent substance to the narrative and no real motivation to empathize with the characters. In fact, the two stories are entirely disconnected from each other to the extent that you’re left wondering why they had been linked at all? There is a suggestion of a tenuous coherence to this decision towards the end of the film but, ultimately, the viewer is left disappointed (an emotion that they will, luckily, have had ample time to get to grips with throughout the preceding 90 minutes).
Matthew Rhys’ performance is solid enough, as is that of Nahuel Pérez Biscayart as the young and inexperienced Alejandro. Duffy, however, in the role of Sissy and with only a meager amount of screen time, merely plays herself (musical interludes and all). This too was disappointing since I, for one, always hope (perhaps naively) that singers who decide to cross art platforms will have the decency to demonstrate some semblance of talent when they reach their new location. In this instance, however, her performance is as forgettable as the film itself and I am comforted only by the fact that this will soon enable me to forget it.
Patagonia attempts to cover issues of what it is that we should be doing with our lives and the relationships we develop throughout our (and it pains me to write it) ‘journey’. However, this concept is about as tired as a sedated octogenarian and, if poorly executed, leaves you in the unoriginal, intellectual no-man’s-land of, “what does it all mean”.
The one plot point that did grab my attention dealt with the character of a homeless, Welsh wanderer, who is a veteran of the Falklands War. This could have been expanded on for purposes of relationship and character development, which would actually have gone some way to rectifying the total lack of investment one felt in any of the on-screen individuals. Needless to say, it isn’t and instead it serves only as a momentary respite from a tired, dull and frankly pointless narrative. A massive thumbs down.