Some films have a way of burning their imagery into our minds.

The majority of pop movies share a common goal of wrestling the attention from an unwilling audience. But they also share in forgettability. That’s called “time to market.”

Some films, however, have a way of burning their imagery into our minds. They pique our interests on completely different fronts: cerebral, introspective, philosophical.

One such is Gerry, an almost stubbornly minimalist experiment of a film by Gus Van Sant. The plot, if you could call it that, is simple: two men named Gerry (Matt Damon & Casey Affleck) drive to the desert for some “thing”, some event. We’re not told who these guys are, where they came from, or what this event is.

That setup almost stands above the rest of the film for its specificity. It’s very deliberate, albeit sketchy, about establishing these guys as ill-equipped for what they get themselves into. They aren’t on a hiking trip, per se, so they don’t know much about orienteering.

One wrong turn, one less map, and they find themselves lost.

I call Gerry stubborn about its superficial details because it refuses to paint reasons for the Gerry’s predicament. It doesn’t give us the benefit of enlightening dialog; no motives are painted, no exposition letting us peer into their minds while engulfed in utter destitution.

What could they be thinking? Are they animals running on survivalist instinct? Is the whole story a metaphor for wandering listlessness? What does it all mean?

Gerry is not a great film, but it is extremely memorable. Particularly mesmerizing is the near perfect soundtrack (really only a two piece work bookending the film) by Arvo Pärt.

It’s a challenging film to watch, not for its content, but for its daring us to look at traditional narrative from an animalistic sense. Like these characters that are hopelessly lost, we too are driven by instinct. With no standard plot devices to drive us forward (the whole thing is conflict), there’s a distinct sense of anticipation: where is this going to end, and are we going to make it?

Like oases in the desert of pop culture, I found Gerry‘s perspective very refreshing. And I can’t get that sad lonely melody out of my head.

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