Saturday, May 11, 2019

Tribeca with Abe: The Short History of the Long Road

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which ran April 24th – May 5th.

The Short History of the Long Road
Directed by Ani Simon-Kennedy
US Narrative Competition

Any good road movie doesn’t have just one destination, and, if it manages to be engaging enough, where it’s headed doesn’t even matter all that much because it’s about what happens along the journey. Moving from place to place makes it difficult to establish lasting connections, yet there are those who thrive on change and the notion of impermanence to keep themselves going. For people with no set address, the idea of settling down can be the scariest of all and present a true challenge.

Nola (Sabrina Carpenter) is a very resourceful teenager, adept at fixing things and making a quick buck after traveling constantly in a souped-up van with her father Clint (Steven Ogg). When an unexpected event derails their wandering adventure, Nola must find a way to support herself. After edging her way in to a job as an auto mechanic for a body shop owner (Danny Trejo), she sets out to find the mother she doesn’t remember who couldn’t handle a life of traveling unpredictability, discovering much more about herself and what she really wants in the process.

A good point of comparison for this film is “Leave No Trace,” which also follows a father and daughter who can’t stay put and prefer not to put down roots. Unlike that more serious exploration of aversion to being tethered to anything, this one is full of humor, particularly from Clint as he enjoys being able to interact with a society that isn’t nearly as clever or resourceful as he is. Nola has inherited that same comedic energy, choosing to see the bright side of her fringe experience and enjoy what she can. It’s great fun to watch them both as they move from place to place, and there are more dramatic and impactful moments that are equally effective.

Actress-singer Carpenter, who has appeared on “Girl Meets World” and “The Goodwin Games,” delivers a fantastic lead performance here, energizing Nola and making her a complicated character whose worldview isn’t nearly as expansive and complete as she believes it is. Best known for playing cruel, villainous characters on “The Walking Dead” and “Westworld,” Ogg delivers an unexpectedly heartwarming turn, grounding Nola’s experience well. Writer-director Ani Simon-Kennedy crafts a sweet-natured and involving story that takes a well-traveled concept and makes it feel fresh and funny, bringing the audience along for a great ride full of sincere laughs and genuine emotion.


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