Playing at Tribeca Film Festival, A Strange Path has a gritty independent style with tense moments of uncertainty about what is happening. Writer and director Guto Parente brings the paranormal to the pandemic with haunting realism and confined, lonely spaces. The seclusion and doubt encompass a son and father trying to connect as odd occurrences plague them. Quiet yet beautiful with a fantastic sound mix, A Strange Path is terrifying at moments and tender at others.
Filmmaker David (Lucas Limeira) visits Brazil for a film festival where his movie will play when a virus starts spreading throughout Brazil. Like COVID, many believe it’s a minor blip, and the festival urges him to stay in Brazil a little longer, though they do not pay for his additional hotel accommodations. Facing uncertainty, one night, he sees an older man pushing a cart down the street. The man is his father, Geraldo (Carlos Francisco), yet there’s no joy on David’s face. It’s discomfort, yet a modicum of longing.
A Strange Path Is Experimental in Parts Through a Unique Lens
Before seeing his father, David sees visions of his father. There’s evident tension when he arrives at his father’s apartment complex. When David visits his father after being away for ten years, Geraldo assumes David wants money. With the virus spreading, his hotel shut down; David requests that his father let him stay there until he can get a ticket back home. After some back and forth, Geraldo begrudgingly agrees.
David’s experimental filmmaking bleeds over into his visions. Even his film, though horrific in parts, has a beckoning quality. Whatever unresolved anger and resentment they have, the cramped space forces them into proximity. By cramped, I mean David sleeps on a loveseat that only fits if he curls up. The relationship does not have a clear trajectory of resentment then resolution. They grate on each other’s nerves. But there are moments in A Strange Path when they bridge or bypass those waves of anger to talk and even laugh.
Casting is Vital in This Film
When it comes to films in confined spaces, casting is critical to keeping the audience riveted. Lucas Limeira and Carlos Francisco achieve that with acting that shows unspoken feelings brimming beneath the surface. Lucas’s performance is essential and relatable. It’s where an adult wants to connect with a parent yet struggles to temper their anger and fears they’re a disappointment. Carlos Francisco fits that role of how many describe a father who grapples with showing less toxic emotions like praise and affection, instead allowing brusque anger or criticism to highlight their love.
Although I went in knowing strange occurrences litter A Strange Path, it surprised me with where it headed. I feared it would run along the vein of Hereditary or Paranormal Activity. But thankfully there is no parent bartering their child for their gains. The sound design and direction craft uncertainty with every scene and terror, but the fear stems from a lack of connection and acceptance. A Strange Path surprises you with its direction and incorporates the pandemic to highlight the isolation and discomfort of relying on a parent you feel detached from and captures the yearning to overcome that hurdle.