Road to Paloma - a review


I watched Road to Paloma the other day and it has zoomed straight into my top 5 films of all time. It is probably the most aesthetically pleasing film I have ever seen, and not just because it stars my #1 man-crush Jason Momoa. Jason Momoa starred in, directed and co-wrote the film, and I think it's a stellar debut directorial performance.

Before I go any further, I'll let you into a little secret. Ever since I was about 5 years old I've been a fan of the biker lifestyle. I was hooked from a very young age, when I cheekily asked a guy a few streets away to me a ride around the block on his CHiPs-equivalent motorbike. Despite never having learned to ride a bicycle (balance issues!) let alone tame a metal horse, I've often surrounded myself with biker culture, going to biker festivals and biker pubs. There's something incredibly life-affirming about zooming along on a bike with the wind in your hair (or crash helmet - be safe, folks), your cares spinning away from you like dancing leaves in Autumn. It's been many years since I've been on a bike, but spectating gives me almost as great a feeling of freedom as the real thing. What is freedom except an illusion, anyway?

The Road to Paloma - as the name suggests - is a road movie. Much of the film is shot at dusk, when the light is akin to a fiery orange hug, and the images are so heart-achingly beautiful I wish I could peel back the screen and climb into them. Shot solely on a hand-held Canon 5D, the cinematography is stripped back and sublime, letting Mother Nature and the roar of a couple of beat up motorbikes do the talking.

Robert Wolf (Jason Momoa) is a man who avenges his mother's rapist and killer. The crime, committed on Indian land and perpetrated by a white man, cannot be dealt with by Indian law enforcement, and is passed over to Federal Court, who throw out the case. (The film is based on fact - in 1978 the Supreme Court denied tribal courts the right to prosecute any non-Indian living or working on a reservation, which is a gross injustice.) Wolf bides his time and seeks revenge, which we hear in anecdotal evidence rather than seeing it unfold on screen. Soon after the film begins Wolf meets a dysfunctional drunk called Cash (Robert Homer Mollohan), a fellow vagabond, and they go on the road together as Wolf evades arrest by the FBI. During his travels Wolf meets Magdalena (Lisa Bonet) who lives out of an Airstream surrounded by lemon trees. The love scenes between the real life couple are shot in cutaway scenes rather than in microscopic detail, and the bond the two share is palpable, so much so I felt a little voyeuristic. There's no expectation in their scenes together - nothing more than two people enjoying one another in the short time they have together, something which perhaps a transient life schools one in. So often in life we ruin our experiences by asking questions of them, when sometimes it's best to let go and just be.

The scenery is so enticing and the story so compelling that I avoided my usual behaviour of guess-the-ending. There is only one bugbear I have with the entire film, and that is a pivotal scene towards the end with Irish, Wolf's brother-in-law (Michael Raymond-James) and Eva (Sarah Shahi), Wolf's sister, in which Wolf's location is given up to the FBI under duress. The scene feels slightly rushed or forced to me, and I'm not sure if some scenes were cut or it played out that way naturally. Nevertheless it's a tiny grey full stop in an otherwise technicolour story, and wasn't a bar to my enjoyment overall. The denouement took me by surprise slightly, but I won't say any more about that as I don't want to spoil your viewing, other than to say it was novel to watch a film where I didn't guess the endgame halfway through.

I would urge anyone who loves a story with meaning and who enjoys breathtaking panoramas to watch this film.

There are actors, and there are artists, and Jason Momoa falls into the latter category undeniably. As much as I enjoyed watching him as Ronon Dex, Khal Drogo or Conan, this is the kind of story he was born to tell. To paint a story well you don't need a huge budget, overpaid stars or the backing of a huge corporation. All you need is a band of brothers (or a Pride of Gypsies in this case), a vision, and a fuckload of heart.

Buy, beg, borrow or steal Road to Paloma.

I'm very excited about any future projects coming up from Pride of Gypsies, and I'd urge to to check out Road to Paloma as soon as you can right fucking now.

What are you waiting for?

Thanks for reading.

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