The Movie Waffler Tribeca 2022 Review - ROVING WOMAN | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca 2022 Review - ROVING WOMAN

roving woman review
Following a breakup, a young woman steals a car and heads for the California desert.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Michal Chmielewski

Starring: Lena Gora, John Hawkes, Chris Hanley, Brian McGuire, Ed Mattiuzzi, Crystal Rivers, Bear Badeaux

roving woman poster

Polish filmmaker Michal Chmielewski's American set Roving Woman takes its title from a song by singer-songwriter Connie Converse. In 1974 Converse got in her car and drove off, never to be seen again, and to date nobody knows her fate. The film's anti-heroine, Sara (Lena Gora), similarly sets off in a car, though in this case it's one she steals from outside a gas station.

roving woman review

Sara is led to this drastic action when her boyfriend kicks her out of his house. She spends the night ringing his doorbell before eventually falling asleep on a discarded sofa on the street. The following morning she finds herself standing beside a car, its motor running and its keys in the ignition. In either the maddest or sanest moment of her life, she drives it away. And drives. And drives.

Roving Woman is part of a long tradition of filmmakers from outside the US displaying a curious obsession with the highways and backroads of that country's dusty SouthWest region. It's no surprise to see Wim Wenders listed as an executive producer. With its relaxed storytelling and improvised feel, it has much in common with Wenders' early road movies. But there's something very modern about its protagonist. Played with coquettish charm by Gora, she's essentially a manic pixie dream girl, the sort the male heroes of indie rom-coms are always falling for. Roving Woman suggests what might happen to a manic pixie dream girl when her lover eventually decides he needs something more stable. It asks what might happen if Betty Blue wasn't suicidal and found herself dumped by Zorg?

roving woman review

The answer is a movie that often resembles the films of Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo. Like many of his films, it features a woman who learns a bit about herself through a series of interactions with various characters. Here those interactions range from creepy encounters with tattooed bros in desert bars and horny teenage skateboarders to pleasant, life-affirming meetings with a newly-married redneck couple, a quirky film producer and in what plays like a nicecore riff on Psycho, a lonely young motel manager.

Much like Scarlet Johansson in Under the Skin, Gora interacts with actual members of the unsuspecting public at points, including one home-owner who confesses he considered shooting her for driving onto his property. Lending star presence while mostly off screen is John Hawkes as the stolen car's owner, whom Sara begins to bond with as she listens to a CD of songs he composed for a woman named "Mimi."

roving woman review

Chmielewski has little interest in traditional narrative. His heroine doesn't so much drive from A to B as from A to K with a detour to C and back to B as she tries to figure out where she's headed. In reality a young woman as childlike and naïve as Sara would probably meet a nasty end in this position, but Chmielewski gives America the benefit of the doubt and largely shows its people at their most positive. If you can trust the filmmaker at the wheel, Roving Woman takes you on a charming journey through that most cinematic corner of the US.

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