Bill and Turner Ross’ “Gasoline Rainbow” is a curious little creature. I emphasize ‘little’ because the filmmakers are sincerely and strenuously committed to making their creations resemble a tiny nugget in terms of scope. The mounting is intently decided as being modest. Everything is pared-back but also geared to the reflective. The ruminative is strongly woven into the film’s texture, propping up in the gaps of small moments with the desired effect of an unforced presence.

The film wants these pockets of introspection and thoughtful exchange to spring seamlessly and realistically, not stitched into the fabric of the narrative for earning brownie points. This is a film that is deliberate about keeping its gestures muted and minimal, yet never lacking in a spirit of searching. Inquiry is critically embedded in the loose and flowing rhythms of the film, where particular stress is put upon a sense of openness.

The young adults in the film play themselves. Their IDs are insistently flashed across in the opening as if to categorically assert the real-ness of their identities. Their lives aren’t spun from fiction. This verite edge is firmly clamped onto the portrait of these five individuals who decide to venture out. None of them – Tony, Micah, Nichole, Nathaly, Makai – is inclined to have a clear idea of the future chalked out. They seek a bustling sense of freedom. They don’t wish to be tethered by the imagination and expectations of the older generation.

That’s what they aspire to remove themselves from, fully liberating themselves and slipping into an idea of the self that is not cloistered or hemmed in by a whole lot of reservations and anxieties. They don’t want to be bound by a clutch of the same old apprehensions that shackled their parents and bogged them down. They are looking for more even if they aren’t sure of what exactly it is they are pursuing. This lack of clarity is wonderfully bolstered in “Gasoline Rainbow.” There is an embrace of uncertainty and tentativeness as much as an utterance of the fears associated with it.

Gasoline Rainbow (2024) Movie Review
A still from “Gasoline Rainbow” (2024)

The film doesn’t shy away from acknowledging how unsure they are of what lies ahead but also makes it a point to underline that confusion is as vital as hurtling to the unknown. The untraversed have to be accepted and focalized. There’s no running away from it. Life is a bundle of unprecedented challenges and risks. Being open to the unknown is what makes life terrifying, exciting, and abundant with rich possibilities.

All the five have planned is a trip to the Portland coast. They set out in a van, beaming with joy and abandon. There’s more liveliness than trepidation, buttressed by the reassurance of each other’s company. Having grown up together, the bunch leans on one another. That’s what drives them along and gives them courage and fortitude. Together, they are almost unstoppable in their quest for adventure and a taste of life’s hidden beauty. They know they have each other to pull them along, and the hope that allows them is sufficient to buoy their endurance. The group has barely made any rock-solid plan, favoring recklessness and porosity to where a sudden turn in events may take them, even if it is for the worse.

Undaunted, they find in themselves a capability to turn formidably adverse situations into something that can prop them up in their journey. We follow them on their adventure as they encounter all sorts of people and forge momentary but crucial friendships within the space of whose interactions individual vulnerabilities gain expression and reaffirmation. These moments are initially spare; however, gradually, they populate the film with a resplendently moving thrust.

The backstories slowly emerge. None of it is pretty. These are people who have struggled with shaky parenting and the vice-like grip of being pulled into its unhealthy, damaging yoke. They are identifying and sifting through what is bad for them and which must be outgrown or put aside. There are also immigration woes and the ache of losing out on a grounding parent who got deported, ending in a family being all ripped apart in his negating absence.

The directors value the humbling variety of experiences and stories on display, but the tone of certain moments does veer to being planted rather than organically fused in. There’s also bizarre leapfrogging from the patchy aesthetics to full-fledged spectacular shots as if the makers couldn’t resist keeling to capturing beauty even if it is a fundamental break in approach. The sheer expansiveness of such immaculate compositions rings a false note, snapping the thread of connection we have with the characters. Starting out with bright glimmers of promise and resonant authenticity, “Gasoline Rainbow” disappointingly winds down in its later stretches into unremarkably meandering territory. Ultimately, the wandering overstays its course.

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Gasoline Rainbow (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
Gasoline Rainbow (2024) Movie Cast: Tony Abuerto, Micah Bunch, Nichole Dukes, Nathaly Garcia, Makai Garza
Gasoline Rainbow (2024) Movie Genre: Adventure/Documentary/Drama | Runtime: 1h 48m
Where to watch Gasoline Rainbow

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