The new film by That bloke who did That film all in one shot including the tricky scene with the Spanish woman playing the piano (TM).
There are all sorts of reasons why Roads should be good. Indeed there are quite a few individual good scenes. The depiction of the refugee camps in Calais and the excessive police presence in the surrounding area are heart rending. So is the scene in which rich British wastrel Gyllen reacts angrily to racist and homophobic comments and has to be calmed down by his Congolese friend William, as William knows that if anything kicks off he’s the one without papers who’ll be picked up by the police.
So what’s wrong with it? Well partly there’s the Green Book syndrome of showing that racism is bad because it makes white people very sad. It feels like the story is told solely from the point of view of the pale skinned dilettante Gyllen (apparently this is even more of an issue in the synchronized version where Gyllen speaks in posh hochdeutsch, while William has a thick Clouseauish accent).
It makes you think what are the conditions under which an “odd couple” film works. I’m sure I’ll think of a thousand countrexamples if I give it any thought, but let me suggest that it’s down to the partners being different to each other but having to cope with the same social situation (let’s say Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau share a flat. They have different levels of cleanliness but still have to pay the same rent at the end of the month).
In Roads, however, only William stands under any jeopardy. He knows that as a black man without papers, he can end up in police cells or worse. Gyllen, however, can escape their problems by stealing a camper van, a motorbike or a credit card. In each case, there will be no serious repercussions as the people he stole from were his own rich relatives. For this reason, Gyllen often takes centre stage while William lurks unobtrusively in the background.
I think the final message – reinforced by the sentimental ending – is that friendship triumphs over everything, which – seeing as the film shows desperate refugees who are suffering because their friends don’t happen to have “borrowed” gold cards – is a touch insensitive. It is a film that is undoubtedly on the right side, but with such a severe lack of self-awareness that it fails to build on the occasional very powerful scene.