A sentimental yarn with elements of “Cinema Paradiso,” the Venezuelan “One Life and Two Trails” lacks the dramatic bite to travel commercially beyond home turf. A handsome production, this yarn of a middle-age man returning to his village and going back in time shamelessly tugs at one’s emotions, and its desire to be liked ultimately proves somewhat cloying.
Romer (German Mendieta) is a successful architect in Caracas as the story opens. It has presumably been years since he visited his mother, Ninfa (Ramona Perez), in the Andean section of the country. When he receives an old family photo in the mail, he becomes consumed with the disquieting sense of her imminent death.
As he travels back to his birthplace, Romer’s story unfolds. A bright youngster, he’s selected to attend a seminary and possibly enter the priesthood. Instead, he winds up in the streets of Merida, first selling produce and later as part of a band of touring players. In Caracas, he lands a job washing dishes until the opportunity arises to teach school in a remote farming community.
The script wanders from one incident to the next; curiously, the central character does little to anchor the narrative. Filmmaker Alberto Arvelo has taken on an ambitious, time-sweeping history but never finds a focus or ties together the political and personal elements of the saga. Romer is a daunting character; it remains unclear whether he’s meant to be a mere cipher.
The film’s lush look seems at odds with the otherwise simple surroundings, and pic’s treacly score is much too obvious in directing one’s emotions. When the final clutch comes in “One Life and Two Trails,” it lacks fire because it was preordained from the start.