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A Trip: Palm Springs Review

A Trip - film still

The Bottom Line

Beneath its low-key, ragtag qualities, an affecting portrait of alienation and anxiety among young adults in contemporary Eastern Europe.

Venue

Palm Springs International Film Festival

Screenwriter-director

Nejc Gazvoda

Cast

Nina Rakovec, Jure Henigman, Luka Cimpric

A seaside jaunt turns into an uneasy valedictory to childhood in Slovenia’s Oscar submission.

PALM SPRINGS - Childhood recedes and the uncertainties of adulthood loom in the road-trip drama Izlet (A Trip) as it follows a trio of friends just a few years out of high school. Moving through off-putting high jinks into darker territory, Slovenia’s entry in the foreign-language Oscar race is a modestly scaled drama that’s charged with uncertainty beneath its summer-breezy surface. 

Extensive international art-house bookings aren’t likely on the map for the low-key feature, and first-time writer-director Nejc Gazvoda is not always subtle in his reach for greater meaning. But for the most part he navigates emotional shifts with impressive sensitivity, and the story proves unexpectedly affecting. 

A key element of the movie’s impact is the way the three actors reveal the fear behind their characters’ bravado. As they embark on a zigzagging drive to the sea, for the kind of camping getaway they’ve done countless times before, it’s clear that circumstances have changed for all of them since their last time together. 

Seemingly fearless Ziva (Nina Rakovec) might still parry and misbehave like one of the boys, but it’s evident from the outset that she’s guarding a secret. Good-looking soldier Gregor (Jure Henigman), on leave from Afghanistan, and pudgy college student Andrej (Luka Cimpric), who’s gay, might still call each other "dickhead" and "fatass," but their joking grows increasingly strained as buried truths threaten to surface. 

The journey starts from a place that distances the audience from the protagonists, who are willfully obnoxious to outsiders, with the mouthy Andrej leading the way. It’s to the credit of Gazvoda and his cast that the characters deepen as they do, their stupid antics and aimlessness informed by a free-floating anger. An abandoned car offers the opportunity for them to unleash some of that rage, and a campfire conversation touches with pointed humor on the economic limitations they face in the “new” Europe. 

The darkness they each carry moves in from the edges. A road mishap foretells Gregor’s confession of a war-zone incident that horrifies his friends. He and the vivacious Ziva dance around the undeniable chemistry between them, not always kindly. He responds to her abrupt retreat with his own style of bluntness, until the difficult reckoning that takes all three to a new level of acceptance and compassion. 

Marko Brdar’s unfussy camerawork moves fluidly between the tight quarters of the vehicle and the open air of the Slovenian countryside, with dynamic work during a stop at a street fair. Punctuating the well-used ambient sound is music by electropop duo New Wave Syria. In more than one pivotal moment, the sparingly used synth score cuts sharply to silence, heightening the youthful and self-conscious sense of drama among these unmoored characters. 

 

Venue: Palm Springs International Film Festival
Production company: Perfo
Cast: Nina Rakovec, Jure Henigman, Luka Cimpric
Screenwriter-director: Nejc Gazvoda
Producers: Ale Pavlin, Andrej Stritof
Executive producer: Sandra Rzen
Director of photography: Marko Brdar
Music: New Wave Syria
Costume designer: Nadja Bedjanic
Editors: Janez Lapajne, Nejc Gazvoda
Sales agent: Insomnia World Sales
No MPAA rating, 85 minutes