“Wherever you go,” a wise man once said, “there you are.” For Will (Ben Foster), it’s where his job as a satellite-mapping engineer takes him—in this case, the rural areas of Armenia. For Gadarine (Lubna Azabal), a photographer, it’s the places her muse points her toward and the farthest point away from her disapproving family. He charts cartographical exteriors, she strives to capture interior geographies; of course they’re going to end up romantically involved! When Ben decides to travel to the country’s border regions, Gadarine comes along as a translator. Old friends are visited, international incidents are narrowly avoided, and libidos and tempers flare up with regularity. What will happen to these two after the trip is a mystery.
For cowriter-director Braden King, whatever destination one ends up at seems incidental. (An essay on the film’s website regarding why he chose Armenia seems superfluous; the film could have been set virtually anywhere and nowhere.) He’s clearly interested in the journey itself, so viewers get ample time to luxuriate in the landscapes while gritting our teeth over Peter Coyote’s pseudomythic narration (“The story is still asleep. It dreams.”) and the sort of WTF meta touches—oh look, there’s a person with a slate board setting up a shot—that a first-year film student might find ridiculous. King’s blessed, however, with compelling tour guides: Foster and Azabal have real chemistry together, and after an erotic swimming interlude, it’s hard not to think the Incendies starlet is the sexiest actor working today. You’d follow these two anywhere—even down a long, winding and perilously close-to-pointless road.
Follow David Fear on Twitter: @davidlfear