The Roads Not Taken – Review

Do you ever wonder what would have been if you stayed with that person?

Sally Potter, famed director of Orlando and The Party, returns with this sensitive and delirious take on dementia and all the lives we could’ve lived.

Starring Elle Fanning and Javier Bardem, The Roads Not Taken revolves around Leo, a man suffering from early onset dementia. As his daughter Molly takes him on errands around New York City, Leo has ventured inside his mind, envisioning two lives that could’ve been. The first being a life in Mexico with his childhood sweetheart Dolores and becoming a writer in a Grecian island. As these false memories and lives collide, Leo struggles to cope with day to day life, falling further into his mind. And it starts to affect his loved ones too.

Elle Fanning, who has truly grown as an actress. No longer does she seem to be flailing against stronger actors. In fact, in The Roads Not Taken, she is perhaps the best. As Leo’s daughter Molly, she is an exasperated daughter who is trying to keep her father in his best condition. She goes through frustrating appointments that are both difficult because Leo’s dementia is severe but because no one knows how to deal with him. He is met with contempt and frustration Only Molly treats him with an ounce of humanity, asking people to address him and not talk like he isn’t there, even with Doctors. However, the hope she has for her father’s condition is clearly slipping because of the impact Leo has on her life. When she is question about his sanity, Elle Fanning shows Molly’s tear-filled eyes as she realises she is perhaps clinging on for longer than she should.

It is such a shame that Fanning isn’t given a film to showcase how much she has matured in her talent. Sadly, The Roads Not Taken is too disorientating. Flipping through the different sequences adds a different layer to dementia but fragments the emotional core of the movie. Potter fails to put the pieces together and its lack of clear cohesion dampens the overall effect of the film.

What’s worse is that Javier Bardem is acting unbearably here. Though he flits through the three “different” versions of Leo well enough, Bardem feels over the top and hammy, to the point where he is off-putting. It is almost as though he is reminding everyone that he is an actor. It is, therefore, hard to melt into Leo’s story.

Sadly, The Roads Not Taken is a dead end film that could’ve travelled a lot further if given more time and fuel.

The Roads Not Taken is out in cinemas now! 

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