4L (4 Latas) Netflix Review  – A derivative Road Trip
“4L (4 Latas) could have been a lot better if the film invested more time on interpersonal dynamics of the key players than erratically meander to go nowhere.”
Road Trip Film’s Narrative
Road trip movies are often about self-discovery or healing the wounds of broken relationships. You pick any film, and you have the subplots involving broken relationships, running away from jagged life, confronting the monster of past, and beautiful & breathtaking locale visuals that would entice you to take the trip. There’s a limited scope to experiment with the road-trips’ narrative unless you have material like ‘Borat’, ‘Easy Rider’, ‘Sightseers’, ‘Wild Strawberries’ and ‘Paris Texas’.
Even within that limited scope, you could create a phenomenal film built on endearing and enriching characterization and emotionally sturdy narrative for the audience to invest in the film. Into The Wild, Little Miss Sunshine, True Romance, Y Tu Mamá También are few great films to fall in this genre. 4L (4 Latas), however, feels derivative, bland and, to a certain extent, manipulative to drive forward the story.
4L (4 Latas) has Characters you care for
4 Latas opens with a letter from a woman who informs boorish, alcoholic Tocho (Hovik Keuchkerian, “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”) about his dying friend, Joseba (Enrique San Francisco), who lives in Tombuctu, West-Africa. Tocho leaves his job, travels France to meet womanizer but matured Jean Pierre, a lifelong friend, estranged of their youth days.
Jean Pierre is reluctant at first but he eventually agrees after walking down through the memory lane of the road trips they three had on 4L (4 Latas) car. They visit Ely (Susana Abaitua), Joseba’s estranged adult daughter to ask her to join them. Despite the non-existent relation between Ely and her father, she decides to make the journey in the hope to fix her disastrous life. She insists Jean and Tocho to a road trip on Renault 4 modified as race car instead of a flight from Spain to Mali.
Gerardo Olivares has a good cast at his disposal. He even manages to create the endearings characters you care for. You love them in spite of their broken lives and flawed characteristics they possess. But the way Gerardo weaves the narrative of self-discovery and redemption is derivative, bland and, at times, even silly.
Under-developed secondary characters mess up the narrative
He introduces secondary characters like a black young man marching to Spain in a search for a better life. An African-Muslim who robs them. A drug mule running away. And uses these under-developed characters to make the whole trip look impossible by manufacturing the conflicts. It doesn’t help the narrative at all and distracts from the primary plot. It makes you wonder if the filmmaker has forgotten the plot. Of course not, the primary players in the film constantly remind you of that they are taking the trip to meet their dying friend, Joseba through sharing the stories under the sky and vignettes.
The film never recovers from the bland dive into the making the trip hell for our tourists in the middle of a desert. Even the lovable characters and Gonzaga Manso’s astounding direction of photography doesn’t help to redeem the soulless road trip. After a while, it becomes a chore to sit through the rest of the film. 4L (4 Latas) could have been a lot better if the film invested more time on interpersonal dynamics of the key players than erratically meander to go nowhere.
More from Netflix
4L (4 Latas) Trailer
Cast: Jean Reno, Hovik Keuchkerian, Susana Abaitua
Director: Gerardo Olivares
Writer: Gerardo Olivares, Maria Jesus Petrement
Running Length: 104 minutes
Available on Netflix