A review of “Gerry” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for language, adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

 

 

“Gerry” is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition, chock full of brash, cinematic unfettered-ness that teases the audience by lulling them to sleep or captivating their souls.

Count me in as a member of the captivated camp. Gus Van Sant’s modern nomadic voyage captures a perfectly spare tone and rides it all the way into the bleak, merciless sunset. 

A couple of contemporary jock-types (Casey Affleck and Matt Damon, both of whom go by the nickname of Gerry) are out for a day of simple light hiking in the California desert, in search of an unnamed monument that lies at the end of an easy walking trail.  Long, silent stretches with nothing but the crunch of boots on gravel depict a mild tedium born of an expectation for instant gratification.  Tiring of what seems like a half-assed effort at best, the boys abruptly change their minds about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and turn around to retrace their steps.

In short order, the Gerrys are lost in the grand vastness of an unforgiving Death Valley. Confident in their ability to find their way out, the pair sporadically pokes fun at one another to break the tedium of relentless movement.  One particularly funny scene finds one Gerry stranded on top of a large boulder, beseeching Gerry #2 to create a “dirt mattress” for him to land on post-jump. 

Ever so subtly the humor drains out of the situation.  Day turns into night and into day again, with no sign of civilization.  No food and no water, just a magnificent, ruthless landscape and a palpable, desolate horror unfolding in real time.

Patience is a virtue in the context of this risky, experimental work. Heat and desperation trickle off the screen in muted staccato.  The narrative gives off intermittent vibes of a manipulative stunt, forcing you to challenge the humdrum and hapless nature of it all.  But lengthy, dialogue-less stretches offer a unique opportunity to tap into gut level fears – of loss, loneliness, and uneasy foreboding. The journey may meander, but the payoff is well worth the trip.