States, the latest feature from writer/director Zach Gayne (“Homewrecker”, “Free To Go (Short)”) is a real doozy of a film to try and tell you about.
You see, it’s not really a film at all, well, it is, but at the same time it isn’t. It’s almost a documentary, but not quite, it’s a look into people’s lives as they travel, a road-trip, a journey.
We don’t just follow one person, no, no, we follow many. Too many in my humble opinion as I began to lose interest in some of the stories as the characters weren’t developed enough and their journey felt flat.
The ones that work are Simon, Jeremy O. Harris (“What We Do In The Shadows (TV)”, “The Amateur”) and Michael Wieck’s story. It’s the latter we open on, practically naked and left abandoned in Mexico with no money or passport.
We don’t know why, we must wait and find out, but we are with him on his journey as he makes his way to find the person who did this to him, meeting characters along the way.
Simon meanwhile is a poet, hitchhiking from San Francisco to Salt Lake City for a poetry “thing”. His big chance to get his poetry out in front of agents and literary folk. He jumps in a car with a couple of women who seem to have their own agenda.
The movie was written by the performers, according to the credits, and I suspect a lot was ad-libbed as well. This gives the whole thing a much more natural feel to it. People stumble, “erm”, is said, people talk over each other, interrupt each other, don’t get the answers they are looking for, you know, like real life.
The camera work is a combination of steady and shaky, but it’s never intrusive or out of place, Gayne shows us everything we need to see with one notable exception…
This is a movie about a number of people wandering through the US and yet we see so little of the country, it’s mostly roadsides and the odd tall buildings. Perhaps this is intentional. Perhaps the decision not to show landmarks or beautiful vistas is all part of the movies schtick?
However, it is self-described as a “multifaceted meditation on freedom”, yet, at times, I felt more claustrophobic then free. This isn’t to say this is bad, I just think the description is wrong. I liked the closed nature of being in cars or surrounded by houses or looming skyscrapers, I thought it worked with the film.
The acting is good, it’s O. Harris and Wieck who stand out with Alex Essoe (“Starry Eyes”, “Midnighters”), a women Ubering her way many, many miles, also doing well.
States is an interesting film; it absolutely won’t be for everyone. There are no car chases, no explosions, no “bullet ballet’s” nor are there any huge monologues about the state of the nation, or world.
In some ways it is a gentle film, it shows you the imagery and allows you to take what you want from it, use it how you see fit. At least, that’s what I got from it.