Gerry (2002)

To describe Gerry is to spoil the vast majority of the film. The plot is so simple that it’s impossible to even discuss the film without telling you what most of it consists of. If spoilers are something you want to avoid completely, here’s a simple way to determine if you’ll like this movie: Watch the first 6 minutes of the film. If you’re captivated after this short period of time, keep watching. If you aren’t, then if you ever suffer from insomnia, use these first 6 minutes to help you get to sleep.

Possibly the easiest way to describe what kind of a film Gerry is would be to say that it’s like the “realistic” survival shows that you see on TV, except the characters don’t have any supplies, aren’t people who have a lot of knowledge about the outdoors, and there isn’t an annoying hand-held camera that makes it seem like they’re trying too hard to make it seem “real”. In a lot of ways, Gerry is more realistic than any of these shows, because its characters are real and they’re in real danger — even if it doesn’t always seem that way.

Now, the plot follows two men, who refer to each other only as “Gerry”. I assume that “Gerry” is not either of their names, because they use the word “Gerry” as another way of saying “screw up”. It seems like they use it on one another as an inside joke, calling each other the name in a derogatory sense. These two men (Matt Damon and Casey Affleck) head out to a desert to see “a thing”, but never reach whatever it is their target it. (We never get to know what it is). Instead, they get bored and decide to head back to their car. But they don’t know where their car is. They’re lost, and this is how the rest of the film is spent; they have to try to get out of the desert.

We get to watch them walk. And walk. And walk some more. There are shots of several minutes in length without dialogue and without cutting to a different camera angle, where all we do is watch the characters walk. When they talk with one another, which is a rare occurrence, they’ll either talk about nothing, or talk about trying to survive this ordeal. The first dialogue segments are interesting enough, but they’re short and are far too infrequent. The second types of scenes get annoying quickly and all sound similar in tone.

There’s one incredibly interesting moment in Gerry, which is the reason I almost want to recommend that you watch it. But then I wonder if it just felt amazing because of how mundane the rest of the film is. Regardless, this moment happens when one of the characters finds himself on a rock and unable to get down. Does he jump and risk breaking an ankle, or wait and hope that his friend will find help and be able to rescue him?

The rest of the film doesn’t have this intensity. There are far too many moments where the only thing happening is characters walking around a desert. They don’t talk much, and they talk even less as the film progresses. So if you need films to have a lot of talking or action to keep you interested, you will absolutely hate this film.

The most positive thing I can say about Gerry is that is looks nice. Deserts are good places to film, I would imagine, because they provide nice scenery. In this film, that is taken for all it’s worth. In fact, the men are often a secondary part, with the background being the primary thing in focus. While watching two people walk, our eyes wander onto the scenery instead. Sometimes, the men will walk off-screen, and we will just stay focused on the background.

What’s really odd about Gerry is the fact that I disliked it more as it progressed, but never enough to turn it off. I was still captivated by it, even if I was bored and wanted it to end. It’s the oddest feeling I can remember having during a movie. I felt robbed of my hour and a half, but I wasn’t mad at the perpetrator. I could appreciate Gerry even if I was bored for most of it. Seeing people walk for almost the entirety of its runtime wasn’t exactly exciting, but it was still watchable because of the cinematography.

So should you watch Gerry? Well, possibly. Be prepared though, because it’s unlike the vast majority of movies you will see. If you need an example of an art house film that easily borders, (and possibly crosses), the line of pretentiousness, then this is probably one of the easiest examples to pick. But the way it was shot, the backdrop, and that one scene that lasts about 5 or 6 minutes where one of the characters is stuck on a rock — these parts almost make it a worthwhile watch.

Gerry is a film that a large portion of the audience will dislike. It’s boring for a large portion of its runtime, and there isn’t a lot that happens. But it looks good, and the background is beautiful enough to keep you interested. If you need to see what getting lost in the desert would be really like, without the typical romanticizing that happens in movies, Gerry is what you’ll want to watch. Or at least fast-forward though, because you can put this movie on 1.5x speed and have exactly the same experience.

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