Review: The Short History of the Long Road

Title: The Short History of the Long Road
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Ani Simon-Kennedy
Starring: Sabrina Carpenter, Steven Ogg, Danny Trejo
Runtime: 1hr 30 mins

What It Is: Teenager Nola (Carpenter) lives with her father, Clint (Ogg), in a camper they call “The Hulk.” Raised by her father’s philosophy to be resourceful and not contribute to the waste society produces, the two live nomadically, traveling from place to place in order to survive. Growing less than content with the lifestyle the older she gets, Nola soon faces a tragedy that forces her to put her father’s teachings to use as she searches for a place to find a new home.

What We Think: I think this serves as a beautiful metaphor for what it is to be separated (whether emotionally or physically) from the source of which raised you and then having to find a place of your own where you may fit in. It’s a dreamy coming-of-age concept; a girl capable in many ways and not so much in others. Bit by bit we see her learn and grow and silently struggle with what little people skills she seems to have. Nonetheless, this hard-working, confused, yet determined heroine stands for that point in most of our lives where we have to become lost in order to find ourselves. The visuals can be euphoric and hypnotic as they quietly carry images such as the hypnotizing landscapes scrolling past us; the score measures the same, distinctive enough, and opening the film up to further emotional and sensory insight. The colors are softer and lovely, leaning more towards the idea that Nola is being guided by her intuition rather than overwhelmed by the unknown, which is an interesting shift in the sort of coming-of-age road trip film that this is. This crisp picture also allows us to navigate people and places alongside Nola, beautifully performed by Carpenter with subtlety rather than just empty silence. You feel for her, her situation, and the situations she’s put into by other people. The supporting cast does wonderfully as well, no matter how small the role. Thanks to the performances, you really feel invited into these characters’ lives and their processes; you really get to lean into the weight of their every expression and word with trust and believability. The writing and directing are obviously very rock-solid.

Our Grade: B, Right off the bat attentive and gorgeous though slower-paced, this indie drama has me actually wanting more. I want more action, more story; I want to see more of Nola, her travels, and her friends and family, which is certainly a good thing. I would highly recommend this to those who have ever been lost and lonely, have an appreciation for transformative road-trips, and the youth who are still searching for their place in this country of sometimes strange and confusing exchanges and expectations.

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Chai Simone Written by: