Roads in February

Directed and Written by Katherine Jerkovic, Roads in February is a beautifully shot and immersive film that explores the relationship between a young Hispanic Canadian named Sara (Arlen Aguayo-Stewart), and her grandmother (Gloria Demassi).

We meet Sara on the road in South America as she makes her way toward the small village where her grandmother lives.  Aguayo-Stewart, who won a Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for her performance, manages to capture Sara’s complicated relationship with her country of birth and her position as both insider and outsider is immediately established.  She speaks the language and remembers the landscape around the village from her childhood, but her old neighbours no longer recognize her and she moves through her grandmother’s house as though it were another planet.

This is one of those films where nothing ever really happens, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  As film goers today, we are used to a fast-paced, CGI-infused movie experience.  Sometimes a step back toward something with a slower, more meditative, pace is a refreshing detox.  If this sounds a bit like I am trying to justify Roads in February’s lagging tempo and weak plot, it’s probably because I am.  The truth is that this felt like one of those films that isn’t about communicating a story as much as it is about communicating a particular feeling and state of being.  Sara’s experience, her immersion in the sounds and smells and tastes of her grandmother’s village seems to be the heart of Roads in February.  I’ve watched few films that communicate non-visual senses through a visual medium as vividly as this.  Sara walks down a dirt road and we are walking with her, tasting the dust in the air and feeling the hot sun on our bare shoulders.

Like Sara, the viewer is both inside and outside of the experience.  We imagine we are there, but we are not there.  It is strange, but also familiar.  In this way, Jerkovic expertly draws us into this moment in Sara’s life.  The story, or lack thereof, is unimportant.

Roads in February is now playing at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox.


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