Uruguay might experience a spike in tourism after “Beyond the Road,” a breezy, at times restless road pic about two foreigners searching for the past while discovering their present. Multi-hyphenate Charly Braun needs to rein in his penchant for restless camerawork and over-editing, especially in the first half, but he’s captured a youthful energy that’s lensed with a reality-show style in a very attractive countryside. Eminently likable despite its flaws, Braun’s debut should find a solid base with younger crowds in Brazil and Uruguay while making pit stops at hip fests worldwide.
Twentysomething Santiago (Esteban Feune de Colombi) gets off a boat in Montevideo to reclaim land his parents, killed in a car crash four years earlier, had left him. On his way out of town, he picks up Juliette (Jill Mulleady), a Belgian woman he eyed on the ship who’s heading in the same direction. Santiago was an investment banker in New York, but now he’s looking for something else, while Juliette’s in search of a guy she met in Costa Rica whom she thinks is b.f. material — only to learn he’s someone else’s b.f.
These two quickly (even too quickly) find relief in each other’s company, heading into the beautiful countryside where they hook up with wealthy people they know, all of whom own quite spectacular homes. Indeed, apart from a centenarian peasant, Uruguay appears to be populated mostly by cool jet-setters with plenty of money to spare. Fitting in perfectly is supermodel Naomi Campbell, making a not entirely incongruous brief appearance as herself, visiting the estate of Santiago’s uncle Hugo (Hugo Arias).
Like all good road movies, this one melds the physical journey with inner discovery, as Santiago and Juliette more or less figure out which direction they want to take next. Braun brings a heady affection for his characters, melding French and American influences to achieve a surprising freshness considering the well-worn situations. Conversations in English unfortunately reveal Mulleady’s thesping limitations, but Feune de Colombi is more adept with both dialogue and character.
Lensing is a bit too loose and skittish as the camera frequently moves from front to rear, from close to far away. Rapid editing within scenes works hard to give the pic an upbeat quality, but Braun overdoes it at times and would do better to trust his own material. Tracks by Radiohead, Bola de Nieve, Sigur Ros and others are tossed in at regular intervals, furthering the hip feel.