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MOVIES: The Roads Not Taken (Berlinale 2020) - Review: “In the Midst of a Mental and Heartfelt Crossroad”


The Roads Not Taken is the first movie I will discuss in this series of reviews about upcoming releases in cinema and TV in 2020, which were presented at Berlinale 2020. It is the new movie directed by Sally Potter, and Javier Bardem, Salma Hayek, Elle Fanning are the main stars.

This origin of the movie is connected with personal experience, Sally Potter’s brother struggled with early dementia. During the Berlinale's press conference, she explained how she envisioned the roads that he could have taken while he was not able to express himself logically any longer.

Starting from this essential point, the movie mingles various storylines set in different countries, the U.S., New York in the specific, Mexico and Greece. A Sally Potter’s quote stuck in my head: “We are a crowd [of identities], but we choose one, and we decide to perform it. I wanted to explore that feeling of fluidity, of possibilities. The premise of the film is that if we choose a direction, the other ones continue to have a life of their own.”

The movie is not an easy one, or simply, does not have an immediate emotional impact. As a viewer, you are lost amongst the storylines, and at times, you can struggle in getting to decipher the message that the story should convey. It is like a broken puzzle, in which pieces are missing, and some are left to interpretation. 

Still, it spoke to me, especially in its depiction of dementia, and how this problem completely drives the lives of the people involved. It gets more and more tender and authentic when it is focused on this ordinary journey of a father and a daughter, Molly, and Leo. The compassion and care that Molly has for her father are heartbroken and pure. It gets raw and devastating when Leo and Dolores cry over the grave of their dead son. There are also slow-burning and, probably, superfluous moments, especially in the storyline set in Greece, which could have been structured and developed with more fluidity.

All in all, coming from a family history with this sort of degenerative illness, I really connected with this movie and, especially, I loved the writing and the performances delivered by the actors. It requires a high dose of patience and a lot of empathy, but Sally Potter did not leave me with a sense of disappointment. She is a storyteller who is not afraid to go outside the box of conventions.