Living life to the fullest is a concept that people try to aspire to. The ideal goal is that a person steps outside of their comfort zone, not allowing means or random obstacles to stand in their way. Many people see this as a reason to travel, to see the world outside of our neighborhood and experience something bigger than ourselves. For others, it might mean wearing your heart on your sleeve and allowing yourself to be vulnerable around others no matter where you are. In the new short film Lonely Planet by Alex Burunova, two people from these two different worlds try to merge into one experience.
Julia (Nadine Nicole Heimann), a journalist, travels the world writing about the perfect tourist experience for travel guides. She never spends too much time in one place, even her outgoing phone message alludes to the fact that she is this free wanderlust spirit. While on assignment in Barcelona she encounters Pau (Roger Batalla), a native who proposes a challenge to her emotionally detached journey through historical cities.
Lonely Planet is a 24 minute short, but the emotional connection formed to the characters and situation is immediate. Within the first few moments of the story unfolding, the audience is fascinated. Julia has the seemingly perfect job, she travels the world and is paid for it. Yet, it’s obvious that in all her exploration of life, her life is void of something more. The film questions within ourselves whether we feel we are living life to the fullest, and has us second guessing the answer. Traveling the world to explore cultures is the bucket list of many, but if it’s experienced alone is it worth the trouble?
Connection, emotional or otherwise, is brought to the forefront when Pau enters the picture. In a very charming, maybe disarming way, he inquires about her way of life. The moment his smiling face arrives, the instant connect between these two is evident. The attraction expressed is not only believable, but makes the audience giddy. It’s one of the few films where the butterflies jump off the screen and into the audience’s stomaches. This is great for a short film, in which no time is wasted in moving the story forward, but all for the emotional journey of falling in love.
The soft shots of the cinematography translates not only to the beauty that love can bring, but how fleeting falling in love can be. We all want to feel that release that comes from dropping our internal boundaries, and while we may not be able to run out and jump on the bandwagon, we are able to travel down that rabbit hole with Julia. Never once was the quickness of the love felt between these two called into question. It’s not that there were concrete evidence why it was possible, but instead the story fastened itself to our desires.
With feeling so connected so quickly to the couple, the short format of the film wasn’t wasted. It was the perfect amount of time to spend in this emotion, not feeling cheated at all. The time that this relationship lasts was perfect as well. Bordering between prolonged and temporary, the film finds that perfect spot of merriment between the two. The questions expressed in the film are explored, and allows the audience to further that discussion on their own. We only needed the nudge, not the detailed explanation of the theme.
For me, that theme is the difference between being a traveler and an inhabitant through life. Is one way of life better, to see the magnificent world or to find roots in the place where you are? Whatever your answer may be, it doesn’t matter, as long as your life is yours and you find a way to share it with others.
Lonely Planet plays at the Newport Beach International Film Festival on Saturday April 23 8:30pm.
Written by Lisa Mejia