“Etienne!” is the story of a guy taking one last trip with his terminally ill pet hamster, and if that sounds like the epitome of painfully high-concept quirk, it’s to writer-director Jeff Mizushima’s credit that he takes the central relationship very seriously — which is not to say it isn’t also funny. An affectionate, raggedy road movie that feels like a throwback to more innocent times, this enormously likable but tonally wobbly, visually rudimentary effort feels best suited to smallscreen play.
Portly, earnest college dropout Richard (Richard Vallejos, sporting a tragicomic moustache) is devoted to his adorable gray hamster, Etienne. When the little critter’s diagnosed with cancer, Richard takes a break from his job cleaning hotel lavatories to embark on a bike tour, during which he and Etienne have a series of brief, pleasant encounters with a bereft dog lover (Vittorio E. Razi) and a pair of traveling musicians (Great Northern’s Rachel Stolte and Solon Bixler), among others. Mizushima’s episodic yarn blossoms awkwardly but sweetly into a tale of two lonely souls (the other played by Megan Harvey) on a collision course, sort of like a low-budget Kieslowski movie with rodents.