SLAMDANCE 2020 FILM REVIEW! While many of us have a social circle and family to support what we do and how we do it, numerous humans walk the planet alone. Whether this is due to personal choice, external forces, or some combination of the two, these individuals on society’s periphery are easily overlooked and quickly forgotten. Andreas Horvath has cut his teeth on documentary features and shorts for nearly twenty years, but he makes his first foray into fiction with Lillian. It is a road trip movie following a Russian immigrant as she treks across the United States in an attempt to return to her home country. While possessing a fascinating atypical atmosphere and stylistic approach, the film is also bogged down by these exact elements until it reaches a state of exhaustive tedium.
After Lillian (Patrycja Planik) is refused employment by a pornographer, who notes her expired visa and little understanding of English as major problems, he advises that she return to Russia for better opportunities. Seemingly convinced of this, Lillian gathers the few resources she has into her knapsack and sets off across the country in order to return to her homeland. She braves elemental extremes, from blistering deserts to snow-drenched mountains, and the many forgotten towns and avenues stuck in the middle. As much as the film focuses on Lillian and her travels, it focuses on the lands and peoples she meets along the way, amassing into a great fusion of the American wilderness and small-town life.
“…a road trip movie following a Russian immigrant as she treks across the United States in an attempt to return to her home country.”
As aforementioned, Horvath, who is also the film’s writer, cinematographer, composer, and co-editor, has made his career in documentary films, and you can tell. There are many instances where Lillian more or less stops to focus on anecdotal elements of a select few who come into contact with Lillian in her blind pursuit of the Bering Strait. However, these aspects do not come back into play later in the movie. Nor do they build to a greater resolution or supply much tension in most of the film’s two-hour runtime.
Several segments occur as if Lillian isn’t even there. It might be emblematic of the overarching motif of a person forgotten by society moving through places that have been equally neglected. However, it makes the experience consistently inconsistent. While that unevenness isn’t wholly a negative observation unto itself, there are several instances where the movie pulls back to show the infinitesimal smallness of our titular character. There are a great many interspersed scenes of Lillian eating food while looking at picturesque landscapes does put a serious damper on the story and our consideration for her journey.