Here's a tough sell if ever I've seen one. The setup itself sounds like the beginning of a joke ("So these two guys walk into the desert..."), while the result is anything but. Two men (who refer to each other as Gerry) go through a scenic walking path in the desert looking for some elusive spot they call "The Thing". We never find out what "The Thing" is, but it doesn't really matter, because they decide to forget "The Thing" and go back to the car. Unfortunately for the Gerrys, they get lost in the desert. The rest of the film is spent with them while they continue to lose their way, as they get deeper and deeper into the desert and farther and farther away from food, water, and civilization.
Thus is the premise for what promises to be, for those who have actually seen it, the most polarizing film of the year. After all, with a premise which lends itself more to inner reflection and moving back than a more forward-moving, event-centric plot, "Gerry" will be the ultimate test of a moviegoer's endurance. I am not sure who I could reccomend this to, but I will tell you this: this could be the single most excruciatingly boring experience of your life. Or, if you are like me, you will side with the admirers of this film: "Gerry" is a surreal, beautiful experience that sparks an enormous breadth of emotions and philosophies within a willing viewer.
"Gerry" was filmed much in the way that the story unfolds. Director Gus Van Sant (who, by going from "Finding Forrester" to this has proven to be an incredibly intruiguing filmmaker) went into the desert with actors Casey Affleck and Matt Damon. They started out with the thin premise of "The Thing", and improvised from there; and it is this improvisation that is the backbone for the feeling that "Gerry" creates. It does not force or search for any reaction from its audience, nor does it have any one meaning that it is trying to convey. No, it does not force, it allows. It allows the viewer to take any interperetation they see from the film. With its euphorically slow shots of the surroundings that become a third character in the film, it encourages the viewer to be placed, as I was, in a state of deep reflection. Not only reflection regarding the beauty onscreen, but also that which will be unique to every different person, a more inward kind of thinking.
Among many things, "Gerry" allowed me to think about man's relationship to nature. As much as we try, can we ever really have the grip on nature that we so desperately want to have? With all of the safe, controlled places we try and put ourselves and all the barriers we try to protect ourselves with, doesn't our true fate lie with Mother Earth? We don't own nature; but doesn't nature really own us? Anyone who was bored by the film and reads this will roll their eyes and say I'm full of crap, but this is just one of the many things that "Gerry" can do to someone.
Another of the more potent strengths of "Gerry" is the relationship between the two Gerrys. There are no grudges held between them for getting lost, and neither considers themselves a leader of the two. The fact that their name is shared suggests that these are two men who not only respect one another, but also place the utmost trust in each other (demonstrated by one of the more memorable scenes in the film in which one Gerry is stranded on a twenty foot tall rock). By the film's conclusion (that I dare not reveal), both Gerrys have a deep understanding of one another, and the film becomes a story about two souls that have melded into one; two men at peace with one another and the Earth.
Love it or hate it, anyone can admit "Gerry" is an incredibly unique experience. Unique, in that it is unlike any film before it. Unique, in that it is highly unlikely that you will derive the same understanding of it as the person next to you. Even so, with as much praise I can sing for it, I highly doubt this is a film I'll treat myself to a second viewing of anytime in the near future. But I reccomend "Gerry" to any moviegoer who has the patience to be an active participant in the films they watch. The reward, although uneven and sometimes meandering, is a hypnotic, thought-provoking, and inspiring one.