*** (out of four)
When engaged couple Alex (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Nica (Hani Furstenberg) backpack in the Georgian mountains with nothing but each other and their guide Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze), what could possibly happen?
A) If Bernal’s work in “Y Tu Mama Tambien” is any indication, they’ll all get it on.
B) Dato will fall off a cliff, leaving Alex and Nica on their own.
C) Dato will attempt to hunt his clients for sport.
D) An encounter with deadly animals, for which they are unprepared due to a lack of Liam Neeson.
E) None of the above.
Working from a short story by Tom Bissell, writer-director Julia Loktev suggests opportunities for catastrophic incident while keeping “The Loneliest Planet” grounded in ordinary behavior. Don’t see it after a sleepless night; you’ll wake up when the movie’s over and assume you only missed a lot of walking around, bracketing symbolic sexual behavior whose meaning somewhat recalls Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello’s activity in “A History of Violence.”
At times the film nods to Gus Van Sant’s “Gerry” in its slow, deliberate journey, accentuating extended conversations and the literal and figurative distances that close and open between people with no hurry to pick up the pace. While “Planet” takes subtlety to extremes that feel more conceptual than character-driven, Loktev’s steady direction and the actors’ quiet performances shadow a wide spectrum of shame and disappointment that echoes after the story ends.
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