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Javier Bardem and Salma Hayek star in The Roads Not Taken.Courtesy of manufacturer

  • The Roads Not Taken
  • Written and directed by Sally Potter
  • Starring Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning and Salma Hayek
  • Classification R; 85 minutes


1.5 out of 4 stars

It is always a treat in these time-pressed days – listen, I don’t know what you guys are up to, but I have two kids under six here – to stumble upon a movie whose run-time is listed at a slender 85 minutes. And then an extraordinary drag when you quickly realize what a chore those 85 minutes are going to be.

Such is the case with Sally Potter’s The Roads Not Taken, an exercise in miserablism that, although clocking in at an ostensibly tight pace, feels never-ending. Following one very painful and very long day in the life of Leo (Javier Bardem), a father suffering from dementia in his tiny New York apartment, Potter’s film makes several grave miscalculations from the get-go, including the film’s central conceit: Not only do we follow Leo’s bid-ridden reality, but also two parallel-universe versions of what his life might look like were circumstances different. One traces his time in Mexico with the love of his life (Salma Hayek). The other follows Leo creepily hitting on young women in Greece. None of the realities are remotely compelling, least of all the main thread that has Leo being schlepped around New York by his exhausted daughter (Elle Fanning).

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Elle Fanning, right, is the most engaged of the film's main cast.Courtesy of manufacturer

Maybe Potter’s dreary fantasia could have worked if her performers were engaged, but Bardem is content to just grunt, sigh or scowl his way through, while Hayek appears to wish she were anywhere else. Only Fanning seems half-into the proceedings, probably because she gets the closest to having a real character to play around with. In another, better version of this world, maybe she would have gotten her own movie.

The Roads Not Taken is available digitally on-demand starting May 19

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