The Movie Waffler Tribeca Film Festival 2023 Review - A STRANGE PATH | The Movie Waffler

Tribeca Film Festival 2023 Review - A STRANGE PATH

A Strange Path review
The pandemic forces a young filmmaker to stay at his estranged father's home.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Guto Parente

Starring: Lucas Limeira, Carlos Francisco, Rita Cabaço, Tarzia Firmino

A Strange Path poster

Movies shot during and concerning the COVID pandemic continue to trickle out from various corners of the world. Many of them have blurred into one indistinguishable mass at this point, too many of them made by filmmakers who felt compelled to make something, anything, to avoid going out of their minds. Guto Parente's A Strange Path is a rare piece of pandemic cinema that takes advantage of the specific circumstances of that recent period of history to explore a universal theme, in this case the often strained relationships between fathers and sons.

A Strange Path review

It's early March, 2020, when the world is still trying to figure out how best to deal with what may or may not be an oncoming global pandemic. Having spent his last 10 years in Portugal with his mother, young filmmaker David (Lucas Limiera) returns to Brazil, where his experimental film is to be screened at a festival in his hometown. His mother has given him the address of his estranged father, Geraldo (Carlos Francisco), but David has little interest in reacquainting himself with his old man. That's until he begins to have visions of his father in dreams and wheeling a large door through the night-time streets on a trolley. When the film festival is rescheduled, his flight back to Portugal is cancelled, his hostel is shut down and his phone is stolen, David decides to see if he can stay with his father. The old man is initially happy to see his son, but he takes some convincing to allow him to crash on his couch.

A Strange Path review

As the days pass, David's interactions with his father become increasingly strained, and increasingly surreal. Geraldo spends his every waking hour typing up some sort of manuscript, the contents of which he refuses to discuss with David. Whenever David asks anything remotely personal, Geraldo angrily snaps, threatening to kick him out. The food in the fridge is several years out of date. At times Geraldo seems to freeze, unblinking in front of his computer, which he refuses to allow David to use to make any arrangements to leave or check in with his girlfriend back in Portugal.

There are however brief moments of connection between the two. When David eventually convinces his father to watch his film, Geraldo seems genuinely proud of his son's achievements. He can't quite bring himself to say so directly, but Francisco's half-smile is telling. Such moments will likely be recognisable to many male viewers. My own father never told me he was proud of me (not that I ever gave him any particular reason to be), but after his death I would hear from his friends how often he spoke of me. We get the sense that Geraldo's outward frustrations with his son may be his way of distancing himself from some guilt over not being a part of his life.

A Strange Path review

When Geraldo develops a bad cough but refuses to seek medical help, we're reminded of the paranoia we all had regarding the safety of our elderly family members during the pandemic. The narrative begins to take a surreal turn at this point, though I can't imagine too many viewers will be surprised by the eventual revelation of what's really been playing out. The effectiveness of the "twist" is a moot point however, as this is essentially a tender drama of reconnection and reconciliation. Parente dedicates his film to his own late father, and it's easy to surmise David is a surrogate for himself and this is his way of saying goodbye to a father he possibly struggled to communicate with while he was alive. Regardless, he's no doubt made his old man proud.

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