Saharan Road Trip
Set in the heart of the choked Sahara desert, 4 Latas sees three unlikely compatriots make a desolate journey across the wasteland with one goal in mind – reunite with their dying friend. For the most part, 4 Latas plays out as a lighthearted road trip, using all the usual roadblocks along the way to push characterisation for each of the three main characters. It works well too, and although this Spanish film is unlikely to stand out next to other, more prolific films in this genre, 4 Latas is a heartwarming and enjoyable ride nonetheless.
The film opens with a phone call that changes alcohol-dependent Tocho’s life forever. His old friend Joseba is dying and after recruiting his fellow friend Jean Pierre, they plead with Joseba’s daughter Ely to come along for the ride too, fearing this may be the last chance they get to say goodbye. Determined to honour their original desert road-trip from Spain to Mali, the trio team up and begin their difficult journey across the desert. Along the way they encounter a number of different issues, both humorous and dramatic, that ultimately lead them to the final, emotionally charged scenes at journey’s end.
Interspersed around these road-trip stops are a number of montage moments of our characters driving across the desert. Seeing the endless sand dunes and harsh wasteland with the aerial shots helps hammer home how treacherous this journey truly is. It’s also especially true late on during the film’s third act where the usual accompanying upbeat music is replaced by something much more poignant. The music actually does a pretty good job depicting these different stages of the journey too, with the early segments playing out with tinges of hope and optimism.
Tonally, the film does well to mix things up between comedy and drama. From Jean Pierre translating warnings at the border as tourist spots through to traders in the desert boasting about their 5 star E-Bay ratings, 4 Latas knows exactly when to add humour at the perfect moments. Of course, the cast do well to switch things up at the right time too, injecting drama and reinforcing the hopeless feel of being stuck in the desert for an extended period of time.
While 4 Latas is unlikely to be a film remembered for years to come, it’s a heartwarming, well written tale nonetheless. The final narration is a nice touch too, tying things in nicely to the theme of the desert and bowing out on an uplifting note. Ultimately though it’s the characters and use of humour that stands out here and keeps things moving at a decent pace. It’s not perfect, but it is an enjoyable ride, one well worth sharing through the desolate, sandy sea of the Sahara.