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Film Of The Week Sad story of a divided self

The Roads Not Taken is a poignant study of a writer struggling with dementia, says MARIA DUARTE

The Roads Not Taken (PG)
Directed by Sally Potter

A FORMER writer whose fractured mind has ironically robbed him of his ability to express himself finds his voice by escaping into parallel realities in this intimate and moving study of dementia and “the roads not taken.”

British director Sally Potter’s new film, inspired by her younger brother who was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, follows the life of Leo (Javier Bardem) over the course of 24 hours as his loving daughter and carer Molly (Elle Fanning) take him to the dentist and opticians in New York.

Although he cannot communicate properly, Molly knows her father is still in there, though she wonders where he drifts off to.

Leo, escaping into two alternate lives he could have led if he had chosen differently, first meets up again with his childhood sweetheart and the love of his life, the fiery and passionate Dolores (Salma Hayek), in Mexico.

In the second, as a novelist, he's trying to resolve his writer’s block on an idyllic Greek island.

In each, his personality is slightly different, reflecting how he would have been affected by different environments, with each story having the distinct and heightened colour palette of a dream.

The interwoven storyline moves seamlessly from one version of Leo to the next, complemented by three distinctive powerhouse performances from Bardem, while Fanning is superlative in delivering a convincing portrayal of his journalist daughter who's at a crossroads, having put her work in jeopardy to look after her father.

Leo always turns to Molly, who is his fiercest defender — she lashes out at the rude and dismissive way he is treated by others, including being the target of racial abuse.

With pathos and humour, Potter brings her unique flair as a film-maker to the acute issue of dementia and what might have been.

 

 

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