The Loneliest Planet is a slow-burning adventure drama centered on a 30-something, vaguely affluent American couple backpacking through the mountains of the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia. Unfortunately, Julia Loktev, the Russia-born American director of 2006’s acclaimed film Day Night Day Night, about a 19-year-old suicide bomber, is too distracted by the romantic landscapes to capture the demise of the couple’s relationship.
Based on Tim Bissell’s story Expensive Trips Nowhere, The Loneliest Planet follows Nica (Hani Furstenberg) and her fiancée, Alex (Gael García Bernal), as they sojourn through Eastern Europe with a private guide named Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze). All is well until they happen upon a group of gypsies, at which point Loktev fails to breathe any actual life into the unraveling of her characters. Although the premise itself is intriguing, it can’t carry a 114-minute film on its own. Watching Nica and Alex walk from one side of the mountain to the other is visually stunning the first time; by their fourth lap we were bored to tears.
The Loneliest Planet deserves acclaim on the merits of cinematographer Inti Briones’ stunning visuals, but, as was the case with Day Night Day Night, Loktev’s obsession with snail’s-pace realism ruins what could otherwise have been a thrilling odyssey.