Film, Film Review

NEWFEST REVIEW: Forgotten Roads (2020) dir. Nicol Ruiz Benavides

Available on demand via NewFest 2020


La Nave del Olvido (Forgotten Roads) is a movie filled with empty space and empty spaces. They populate the mise en scene and the homes which characters occupy throughout. Even the suburban town in Chile in which the movie takes place is overcome with “space mania” and the bright, alien light that periodically reveals itself from the cosmos above.

Within this alien-obsessed and conservative town, 70-year-old Claudina (Rosa Ramírez) is dealing with a number of empty spaces herself. With her husband recently deceased, the widow must now move from the countryside into her estranged daughter Alejandra’s suburban home. In this new chapter in her life, Claudina must also confront a more metaphysical empty space, that of her unknown future as an older woman with little economic stability. Seemingly content with filling her time with routine—getting firewood, spending time with her grandson, eating dinner with her family—something awakens within Claudina when she meets Elsa, her daughter’s confident and married neighbor. Elsa and Claudina’s friendship evolves into romance, however, and what begins as an affair turns into a shattering of Claudina’s routine, causing her to reevaluate the empty spaces around her and what she might be able to fill them with.

Forgotten Roads is a charming if melancholy little movie throughout, using flourishes of magical realism to craft a parable about outsiders and the ways in which they craft their identities, find themselves, and find each other, in turn. Every instance in the movie is wholly focused on Claudina’s journey, and her experiences are then refracted outward. As she looks to her future, she becomes a regular at the local underground queer bar Porvenir (meaning “the future”); as she looks to her past, she befriends a young woman who reminds her of herself and someone completely separate; and as she looks to Elsa, her emotional journey in the relationship becomes her emotional journey inward, causing revelations about her life and the events she’s previously left unexamined.

Rosa Ramírez, as Claudina, gives a riveting lead performance. She plays Claudina with such deep understanding and introspection—quiet, subdued, shy—yet never sacrifices any strength. The journey we witness with Claudina is one of leaving things behind, naturally. Yet as Claudina sheds layers and baggage or suffers loss and heartbreak, writer-director Nicol Ruiz Benavides and Romana Satt remain focused on presenting a woman going through a trial and coming out of the journey stronger for it. Claudina is perhaps not so much changed as she is revealed, like a light suddenly appearing.

With Forgotten Roads, Nicol Ruiz Benavides offers a lovely and fresh voice to the “coming-out” stories that we so often see (as well as an exceptional entry into the dearth of movies featuring queer older and elderly folks). The movie also feels so revelatory precisely because of Benavides’ distinctly quiet approach to what are some exceptionally significant developments in its main characters’ life—the death of a spouse, a lesbian affair, and potentially alien flashing lights from above. Benavides treats these all with a tender caress, allowing both the deeply human and the cosmically wondrous to shine on their own throughout the movie. It is a gentle portrait of a woman in discovery, likewise asking us all to be so tender with ourselves as we journey down roads less-traveled and even less remembered.

Forgotten Roads
Dir. Nicol Ruiz Benavides
71 min

Forgotten Roads is available to stream through NewFest now until Tuesday, 10/27 .

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