The Passage proves that there’s no one way of presenting a road trip movie. In every case, the toad movie is used as a metaphor for the journey through life, whether it be a comedy or a serious drama. It represents twists and turns in both a literal and a metaphorical sense. In some cases very little really happens. Such is the case here, with this first part of Roberto Minervini’s Texas trilogy. In its favour, The Passage is much like an iceberg in that there is much, much more going on under the surface.
Presented in a cinema verité style (in other words, like a documentary), The Passage follows three characters: a woman, Ana, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer; a convict out on parole; an English guy. All of them are middle aged at best, advanced in their years at worst. And, it seems, everybody involved isn’t a professional actor. This enhances the documentary feel to the story, made all the more believable because you don’t get the impression that these people are acting. They’re just living, playing their lives out for us all to see.
The purpose of Ana going on her road trip is to visit a new age alternative therapy commune – without even going into spoiler territory any sensible thinking person will know how that turns out. Our convict friend is along for the ride but dealing with complex family issues, and our English guy has recently been divorced and is travelling to establish an art exhibition. Shame for him that it’s tainted by his dark thoughts following the end of his relationship.
There’s no rush for the characters to get out on the road, nor is there a rush to connect our three characters. There is a slow build set up and our English representative doesn’t show up until nearly an hour in. They’re an interesting group, none of whom you’d traditionally expect to lead a film narrative. The depth and breadth of cinema strikes again, in all its glory.
The unofficial fourth character is the Texan landscape, as rich and varied as the characters living there and travelling through it. In one scene they stop to watch a thunderstorm in the distance. If you were looking for allegories about life, existence and human struggle, just take a look at the scenery Minervini uses here. The planet gives (such as when they take a dip in some murky, muddy water) and it takes away. I’ve no doubt there is even more subtext there for you to get stuck into should you want to dig a little deeper. That’s part of the enjoyment.
What we do have though is a disparate trio, all from different walks of life, uniting in a common cause. The film ends without a real conclusion. But this is just like life – there are no Hollywood style endings, no ultimate finale to wrap everything up nicely. The future is unwritten, and it’s up to us to write the next chapter in our lives.