Jauja* would work much better as a short film. Framing the vivid Argentinian landscape in a 4:3 ratio is a provocative choice that pays off far better for Alonso than his bloody-minded insistence on static wide shots.
Mortensen trudges gamely though these saturated wilds and convincingly portrays Gunnar’s confusion against a chain of bloody surrealism. The direction though is too indulgent and listless to lend much emotion or character to his journey.
Above all, it’s hard to care about Gunnar’s search for his daughter when she’s barely explored by the threadbare script. A thrilling narrative clearly isn’t Alonso’s main concern.
Tone can only excite so much when there’s so little story, but equally there’s only so much atmosphere you can dredge from a succession of beautiful yet static landscapes.
*pronounced How-ha. You’re welcome.
CAST: Viggo Mortensen, Diego Roman, Viilbjørk Malling Agger
DIRECTOR: Lisandro Alonso
WRITERS: Lisandro Alonso, Fabian Casas
SYNOPSIS: A father and daughter journey from Denmark to an unknown desert that exists in a realm beyond the confines of civilization.