(director/writer: Julia Loktev; screenwriter: based on the short story “Expensive Trips Nowhere” from the collection “God Lives in St. Petersburg” by Tom Bissell; cinematographer: Inti Briones; editors: Michael Taylor/Julia Loktev; music: Richard Skelton; cast: Gael García Bernal (Alex), Hani Furstenberg (Nica), Bidzina Gujabidze (Dato); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jay Van Hoy/Lars Knudsen/Helge Albers/Marie Therese Guirgis; Sundance Selects/IFC; 2011-Germany/USA-in English and Georgian, with English subtitles)

An intriguing film, that has a sense of poignancy, sparse dialogueand offers a deep suspicion of love if it’s untested.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Russian-born, Colorado-raised filmmaker Julia Loktev(“Day Night Day Night”) writes and directs this slow-moving minimalist romance story based on a variation of the Ernest Hemingway 1936 story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, thatTom Bissell based on his short story “Expensive Trips Nowhere”. It’s superbly photographed by Chilean lenser Inti Briones.

Comfortable middle-class American kooky aimless carefree hipster world travellers, an engaged couple in their thirties, Alex (Gael García Bernal) and Nica (Hani Furstenberg, NYC born but Israeli based), are summer vacationing in the Caucasus. They hire the gruff but amiable private local mountain guide Dado (Bidzina Gujabidze, real-life mountaineer) to lead them on a back-pack hike across the stunningly beautiful wilderness of the Khevi region of the Republic of Georgia. Through the couple’s playful actions, they appear to be very much in love. Nothing is revealed about their lives until a life-changing event happens when the couple encounter a rifle threatening trio of mountain man and Alex makes a cowardly gesture that lasts only a few seconds and then corrects himself, but even though it’s never mentioned again the couple’s relationship changes forever and it becomes a different movie than expected as the pleasure trip is now filled with awkward silences and the love between the two dissipates.

It’s a relationship movie that drifts into rocky terrain as a tale of two characters who must wrestle with the surprising moment of truth that has suddenly changed their romance.

An intriguing film, that has a sense of poignancy, sparse dialogueand offers a deep suspicion of love if it’s untested. It seems to advocate that travel together either brings a couple closer or further apart.

The title is meant as a comical ironic reference to the Lonely Planet travel-guides used mostly by backpackers like Alex and Nica.

REVIEWED ON 11/27/2012 GRADE: B+