Gasoline Rainbow

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Gasoline Rainbow
"Whatever structuring the directors are doing is achieved with the lightest of touches, so that we feel as though we’re just along for the ride with these guys." | Photo: MUBI

The loose-limbed and free-spirited optimism of youth pumps through the veins of the latest film from Bill Ross IV and his brother Turner as they take a road trip with a group of teenagers on the cusp of the post-school world.

The brothers have been plying a specific brand of docufiction for years, casting non-professionals and then helping them to construct characters lightly based upon themselves before putting them into semi-structured scenarios. With the passage of time, this hybrid approach has become increasingly popular but the Ross bros still lead the way in showing how it should be done.

The film, which closed MoMI’s First Look Festival, follows Nathaly Garcia, Makai Garza, Tony Aburto, Nichole Dukes and Micah Bunch as they head out in a van that has seen much better days. Their plan mainly consists of leaving their small town of Wiley, Oregon, firmly in the rearview mirror, although the end of their rainbow also holds the promise, 515 miles away on the Pacific coast, of a Party At The End Of The World.

As one of the teens as “one last fun adventure we can all do together” before they have to get “fuckin’ jobs” it indicates the way that time and space for the under-25s flows in a different way. The freedom to just take off remains a new opportunity, optimism still largely untarnished by experience. The sense of not being wedded to expectations extends to the playlist they listen to as they hit the road. While earlier generations might have been wedded to the here and now, the availability of everything, all at once in the modern world, means their playlist includes everyone from Metallica and Cypress Hill to Michael Hurley and Guns N’ Roses.

Whatever structuring the directors are doing is achieved with the lightest of touches, so that we feel as though we’re just along for the ride with these guys. Relaxed camerawork from the brothers sits back and lets the kids do their thing, although it is also punctuated by footage the teens shoot themselves or snapshots, which keeps their energy in focus. Perhaps a little baggy in places but, in some ways, that only adds to the 'real' feel of the enterprise that would be lost with a tighter edit.

The film flows around the group as they encounter people along the route and contend with unexpected events. One of the joys of youth is not knowing quite what to expect and, because of that, rolling with just about anything. There’s more heft to all this than first appears, however, as the directors also stitch in some voiceover from the teenagers captured before they hit the road. These snippets reveal more serious concerns about life and where they fit within it along with details of their, often not easy, childhoods, which act as a counterpoint to what we see on screen.

These kids might drink and take drugs as they go to look for America, but it’s the natural high from the experiences they have on the way that proves the most intoxicating.

Reviewed on: 20 Mar 2024
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Gasoline Rainbow packshot
A group of teenagers go on a road trip.

Director: Bill Ross, Turner Ross

Writer: Davey Ramsey, Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross

Starring: Tony Acierto, Micah Bunch, Nicole Duke, Nathaly Garcia, Makai Garza

Year: 2013

Runtime: 108 minutes

Country: US

Streaming on: MUBI


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