The hiking term Southbounder refers to traveling the distance of the Appalachian trail starting in Maine and heading South. Based upon his own experiences traveling through the mountain range Ben Wagner’s “Southbounders” deals with Olivia (Amy Cale Peterson) and her misadventures with the free spirited Slackpack (Chris Mcchutchen) and the philosophical Rollin (Scott Speiser) as she tries to find herself on the long hike.
Olivia is studying to be a physical trainer but needs this time off before going back to school in order to clear her head. Despite her best efforts she is joined by the slovenly Slackpack, who desperately wants some company, and eventually by the relaxed Rollin. Little touches such as seeing shy Olivia’s first meeting with Rollin, teaching him how to wrap his leg are welcome and give “Southbounders” the authentic feel that Wagner is aiming for.
Super low budget “Southbounders” has modest goals but hits them admirably. Wagner is doing his best to allow the viewer to feel what it is like to be a Southbounder and succeeds through quiet moments such as showing the hikers out on the trail wishing they had their favorite food or relaxing in a youth hostel singing songs. A relationship between Olivia and Rollin develops but it feels more natural than most Hollywood films and has a subtle realistic charm. “Southbounders” is never that complex of a film but this seems to be Wagner’s focus, wanting authenticity over melodrama.
There are no psycho park rangers or killer bears so suffice to say “Southbounders” is not for everyone but those in the mood for a more relaxed story about finding yourself may appreciate “Southbounders” as the labor of love Wager and company intended it to be.