If you go into “Traveling Light” and think that it feels like a rookie effort, you wouldn’t be the only one. Directed by Bernard Rose (the acclaimed director of movies like the original ‘Candyman’), this COVID set drama is shot on a shoestring budget and essentially feels like a 1 and a half hour long improve class.

Actors like Danny Huston, Tony Todd & Stephen Dorff show up, but they soon turn into caricatures that feel more and more distant and paper-thin as the film proceeds. This is especially frustrating because beneath the randomness and flack is an interesting exploration of privilege and collective paranoia. However, the one-the-fly approach only leaves it feeling like a lot of aimless rambling that doesn’t account for anything substantial. 

Set on May 30, 2020, which puts it right in the early stage of the COVID-19 lockdown, ‘Traveling Light’ opens with Caddy (Tony Todd, a collaborator of director Rose from the 1992 Candyman), a middle-aged Uber driver who is disturbed by the death of George Floyd. The black man is desperately seeking his young son, who has left home and has been basically living off the streets for a while now. From the looks of it, Caddy has gone through a full-blown existential crisis, and his driving Uber, in spite of the pandemic at its most dangerous, feels like a last resort for finding some kind of human connection in a time when everyone has literally masked themselves away from each other. 

Traveling Light (2021) Review
A still from Traveling Light (2021).

The paranoia of the pandemic is exhumed by its more privileged, mostly white cast that includes Harry (Danny Huston) – a self-proclaimed cult guru who organizes a get-together for all his followers in a high-end mansion on the LA hills. Todd (Stephen Dorff) & his wife (Olivia d’Abo) are clearly having a tough time, possibly because of Todd’s infidelity and wayward nature of doing things on an impulse. There are a few other characters, including the one played by Matthew Jacobs, a snobbish old man who is literally roaming the streets to capture videos of people who don’t have their masks up, not because he is a good citizen, but because that would give him some kind of validation in a time where no one is around to give that to him. 

The story kicks in when Caddy drops a host of other characters at the mansion and realizes that these rich folks are having a party right in the middle of a pandemic, not just breaking protocols but also just shitting on a volatile time in America where an incident as brutal as a young man’s death has left everyone disturbed.  

Now, most of Travelling Light feels like a direct homage to Luis Buñuels ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ set in contemporary times, but director Bernard Rose’s approach is so odd and uninviting that none of those themes really feel like they are explored in any way. There’s a hit-and-miss try at social commentary but since this is essentially just about a gathering, a search, and that class difference that is deeply injected into its veins, this story needed something more substantial than just rich people being rich people as its narrative drive. 

Essentially, the film feels like a creative exercise that can make a good student film, but as a story that is backed by well-known actors and a renowned director, it just feels like a whole lot of nothing. 

Read More: Project Dorothy (2023) Movie Review: A Loud, abrasive, evil-AI chamber piece

Traveling Light (2023) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Traveling Light (2023) Movie Cast: Tony Todd, Danny Huston, Stephen Dorff

Where to watch Traveling Light

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