By Jason Guyer
There is and has always been something people enjoy about the idea of living “off the grid” or “on the road.” There are many variations of these kinds of films. Some popular and some not so much. And a select few have even been life-altering for some.
Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” was that for many who have read it.
Another was the film “Into the Wild” about Christopher McCandless, an individual who chose to give his savings to charity, rid himself of his possessions, and set out on a journey to the Alaskan wilderness
Just recently, the bus McCandless once lived in was flown out of the Alaskan wilderness so people would stop making pilgrimages to it.
These types of stories often serve as an inspiration for the listener.
Personally, I have never been one who found the stories inspiring. Intriguing, yes; but not inspiring. Until now that is.
Ani Simon-Kennedy’s “The Short History of the Long Road” is the newest version of this style of filmmaking and storytelling about life “off the grid” or “on the road.”
“The Short History of the Long Road” is the story of Nola, a teenager who has to confront the reality of life on the road after tragedy strikes. Nola, who is played by Sabrina Carpenter, is at home on the open road because her self-reliant father is her anchor in a life of transience and whose freewheeling viewpoint brings the pair at odds with common norms of familial stability.
As the pair crisscross the United States in a lovingly refurbished RV and live life through their independence and make ends meet by doing odd jobs.
When an unexpected tragedy strikes, leaving Nola on her own.
Nola tries to continue the pair’s nomadic existence but ends up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, looking for a mother she never knew. When her motorhome unexpectedly breaks down, Nola is forced to forge a bond with an auto body shop owner as she works off the repair costs.
“The Short History of the Long Road” is a film that shows no matter if you live on the grid or off that you are capable of making the same mistakes either way.
Nola’s father decries Western civilization on how it forces things on a person while Nola goes along with the wandering existence that has been assigned to her by the same father.
“The Short History of the Long Road” is about Nola’s journey though and not her father’s. This is an important distinction.
After tragedy strikes, Nola no longer is on her father’s journey, She is on her own.
The film has very heady overtones dealing with life philosophies but the filmmaker, Ani Simon-Kennedy, keeps the film quiet and steady.
The film is swift and light and that is mostly because it does not over dramatize sorrow or hardship. Those things are a part of Nola’s life but there is more something she experiences rather than something that dominates her experience. This is a profound distinction and one that makes “The Short History of the Long Road” a great film.
Nola experiences hardship. She is homeless and alone with no money traveling the western U.S.
She meets many people along the way. For the most part these people are good but they also come with their own philosophies and some aim to push those on to Nola.
The two most prominent are characters named Marcie and Miquel.
Marcie is a good Samaritan who opens her doors to Nola but in the end Marcie reveals herself as a bit of a devout religious fanatic who is seemingly “doing good” for the sake of her religion not for the sake of actually doing good.
Nola does not quite fit in with Marcie and her family and the philosophy of their lives.
Miquel, who is played wonderfully by Danny Trejo, also helps Nola but he is reluctant at first. Nola wins him over and he becomes a stabilizing factor for Nola for a while.
While staying/working with Miquel, Nola meets Blue. Blue is played by Jashaun St. John slowly becomes Nola’s best friend.
Blue is where the profoundness of Nola’s journey in “The Short History of the Long Road” comes through.
Nola is curious and hesitant with Blue as Nola has never actually had a friend because of her nomadic existence with her father and without giving too much away this relationship is where Nola grows and learns the most from her own experience.
The message behind “The Short History of the Long Road” is wonderfully eye opening and is done in such a way that everyone should love Nola’s story.
Nola’s story and the character are brought to life by Sabrina Carpenter.
Carpenter is probably best known as Maya Hart from the television show “Girl Meets World” or as a singer who has a couple EP’s out.
None of these are really in my area but her last role was one of my favorites when in 2019 Carpenter played Hailey in the film “The Hate You Give.”
“The Hate You Give” is a wonderful film and Carpenter played “I am not a racist” racist character.
“The Short History of the Long Road” goes in a completely different direction for Carpenter and is her strongest performance to date.
Nola is not a character who has a lot of dialogue. Rather, everything Nola is feeling is portrayed through emotion first and foremost and the spoken word when it’s necessary.
This is Carpenter’s strength in the film. “The Short History of the Long Road” is a toned down film that relies on the film’s score and the film’s actor to express everything the film needs to.
Carpenter does this as well as anyone. “The Short History of the Long Road” is a step in the right direction for her acting career.
New actors on the scene or in films are always fun to watch. I have long thought actors have gotten much better over the years.
The problem is that the film industries stories have not always gotten better. There are far too many sequels, reboots, and reimaginings.
Although subject matter can be similar, as is with “The Short History of the Long Road” and many other “off the grid” or “on the road” films or books but you still can be original inside a style or type.
“The Short History of the Long Road” is just that. It is a film that feels new and fresh and the inspiring nature of the film is the experience of it.
Just as Nola’s life is an experience she has to actually experience, so too are films, and Sabrina Carpenter’s performance and the entirety of “The Short History of the Long Road” is a film to experience.
IRATE SCORE: 4/5
Jason Guyer is an avid moviegoer and works in the graphics department at the Eagle Times. For questions or comments he can be emailed at email@example.com.