The Short History of the Long Road (2020) | VOD
Indie flicks starring Disney Channel stars tend to go one of two ways, so I was delighted to find so much pleasure in The Short History of the Long Road.
It can be hard to make a film with so little narrative feel big, but writer and director Ani Simon-Kennedy does just that. It’s her second feature and she handles the film with ease, giving us a complex insight into the psyche of Sabrina Carpenter’s Nola. With little dialogue, we can sense her pain, her anger, her confusion, and her loss throughout the film as she finds herself unexpectedly alone. So much is said in this film through body language, and Simon-Kennedy’s keen eye ensures we’re seeing it as we should.
Teenager Nola has spent her life on the road with her nomad dad. When a cruel twist of fate leaves Nola suddenly alone with no home and no roots she has to make a new course for herself. Underage and ill-experienced, it could be a daunting and overwhelming feat, but Simon-Kennedy’s writing makes it feel authentic. The film structure feels almost chaptered as Nola moves from one place to the next, but it never feels underdone or overstuffed. Whilst there isn’t anything wildly original in the plot, it’s a pleasant and calming watch and its elements of abandonment, grief, and finding your own place in the world are handled with care.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Sabrina Carpenter is superb in the lead role of Nola. Known to most as a Disney Channel star (Girl Meets World), I don’t believe I’ve previously seen her in anything and she carries the film beautifully. Appearing in every scene, her performance as Nola feels authentic and complex as she tries to navigate and fit into a world she’s never experienced. The scene in which she deposits clothing to a recycling bin showcases her range and the extreme cruelty faced by Nola, as well as her naivete and immaturity. I also loved Danny Trejo’s role as Miguel and his chemistry with Carpenter is brilliant – I was delighted this storyline received the closure it did.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
"...a lovely film and excellent showcase for both actress Carpenter and director Simon-Kennedy."
It visually feels like a coming of age road trip movie and there’s a thin atmosphere of sand and dirt, the kind you feel on you after a weekend camping or at a festival, threaded throughout the film. A huge well done to whomever on the team sourced the van that is Nola’s home, The Hulk.
The make-up team do an ok job on un-polishing Carpenter’s image to give her a backpacker vibe. I couldn’t help but compare how she looks after 15 years on the road versus how I look after 3 months in lockdown and think she’s still a little more put together, but we do see Nola and Dad taking care of themselves on the road, so maybe they’re just better prepared than I was!
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
A beautiful and well-done soundtrack, it’s varied enough to keep the emotions flowing and I absolutely adored the closing credits song. I’ve not been able to find a soundtrack list, but the sound department has ensured every track choice adds to the poignant emotion in Simon-Kennedy’s script.
As I already mentioned, there’s nothing wildly original in The Short History of the Long Road, but it’s a lovely film and excellent showcase for both actress Carpenter and director Simon-Kennedy. I hope to see more from them both soon and recommend the film as a great emotional cleanser and moment of calm and reflection.