Bruno & Earlene Go To Vegas

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Bruno & Earlene Go To Vegas
"It's beautifully produced, looking really polished for its tiny budget."

Bruno & Earlene Go To Vegas is many things. It's a love story in which sex and sexual attraction are irrelevant. It's a road movie in which the destination keeps changing. And it's an odd couple tale in which one half of the couple is odd because she is, ultimately, quite ordinary - and therefore unlike anyone else in the film.

This ordinary woman is Earlene (Ashleigh Sumner), emerging from a shitty relationship and trying to get her life back together, hanging out in Venice Beach. There she meets Bruno (Miles Szanto), an Australian drifter who dreams of seeing Paris. They go back to his place to drink and hang out. It's only the following morning, when an angry woman enters and starts shouting for the police, that Earlene realises this isn't really Bruno's place at all - he just found out when the owners would be on holiday and decided to crash there. They run. She's angry but exhilarated. He laughs, but there's depression underneath it. For him, this is about survival. When she finds out what else he's thinking of doing to survive, Earlene intervenes bodily, drags him into her car and insists that life has to change.

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What follows is a long ride through the vast fields and deserts of America, the landscape itself conveying the enormity of what our heroes are pitted against, showing us their smallness. Paris is unreachable, so they decide to aim for the small Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas. Bruno quickly gets over his resentment at Earlene's actions and looks to her for the sense of friendship and family he never had. The reason for his isolation, eventually shared over drinks with a friend they make along the way, is wisely underplayed; it is not Bruno's difference but others' reactions to it that have shaped his life. The thoughtless, audacious question that follows - why doesn't he make himself more normal? - is beautifully framed so that viewers to whom it is new will only gradually become aware of its enormity. Bruno responds with the politeness of those who have learned to expect such intrusions, but we are invited to see, through his wider search for a social identity, his struggle to come to terms with the fact that he doesn't dislike himself.

Through all this, Earlene is a bystander, though she's warmly accepted by the various outcasts they come across. She fits easily into the role of devoted ally until everyone forgets that ordinary lives can be complicated too, and it emerges that she's facing a challenge of her own. Summer brings a real solidity to the role, letting us see the gradual build-up of pressure until she's finally confronted by an apparent choice between fantasy and reality. Her quiet intensity helps us understand how Bruno's feelings for her shift from need into something like love, with never a kiss, nor the promise of one, required.

Ultimately, this is a film about family, about community, and about all the people who can't take those things for granted. Few films really address these issues, though many pretend to, and despite a lot of patronising reviews from people who lack Earlene's insight, this has gained a lot of traction where it matters. It helps that it's beautifully produced, looking really polished for its tiny budget. The narrative is loose and sprawling, the script uneven, but the film has a solid core. It betokens real talent and that all important thing in the filmmaker as artist, a willingness to tell it straight.

Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2015
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Bruno & Earlene Go To Vegas packshot
Two strangers from very different worlds head out on the road together.

Festivals:

EastEnd 2013

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