top of page
  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

Road To Nowhere (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 17


Starring Shannyn Sossamon, Cliff De Young, Tygh Runyan, Waylon Payne, Dominique Swain, John Diehl, Fabio Testi, Nic Paul, Mallory Culbert, Bonnie Pointer, Michael Bigham, Gregory Rentis, Lathan McKay and Peter Bart.

Screenplay by Steve Gaydos.

Directed by Monte Hellman.

Distributed by Monterey Media. 121 minutes. Not Rated.

Road to Nowhere is a beautiful, moody, passionate, dark, sometimes frustrating neo-noir love letter to film.

It looks stunning, first things first. It is truly beautifully filmed. It is quiet and brooding and not afraid of silence. In fact, writer Steve Gaydos and director Monte Hellman barely have a word of dialogue in the first 14 minutes of the film. Instead, they are content to linger on such potentially non-cinematic images as a woman sitting in bed drying her nails with a blow drier for well over two minutes and leaving the camera staring at the outside of a house that we know something dramatic is going on inside – but we are stuck on the outside with no way of knowing exactly what the hell is happening.

It is quiet and slow moving and yet undeniably gorgeous. But also, sometimes a little bit dull.

Then we are led into the meat of the story. A film crew is going down to make a film of a true-life story of greed and death which had taken place not long earlier – a tale of crooked politicians and a gorgeous woman whose embezzlement plot led to a mysterious death or disappearance.

The director of the film, Mitchell Haven (played by Tygh Runyan) is passionate – and more than a bit pretentious – about the story he is telling. In fact, honestly, he is a bit pretentious about everything, but mostly about film and art.

Haven casts an unknown (Shannyn Sossaman) in his female lead, determined that only she can play the role. Quickly, he finds himself falling for his winsome ingénue. Then suddenly people start remarking how much she looks like the character. And then some people suggest that perhaps she is indeed the woman she is playing.

Unfortunately, this all becomes kind of confusing and kind of precious. As you are watching, you never know for sure whether you are watching the characters or actors portraying the characters or the characters portraying actors portraying the characters. It gets a puzzle-box logic which makes it rather hard to keep track of things.

Road to Nowhere is very smart about the filmmaking process, but at the same time I think it somewhat overestimates said process’ inherent fascination. Too much time is spent watching screenwriters bitch about cuts, watching DPs decide on the perfect camera lens, watching actors deciding what their character’s motivation might be, watching our filmmakers watch other classic films in bed and tell each other how brilliant these old films were.

Of course, the film loses a good deal of its Hollywood insider juice when they suggest that Leonardo DiCaprio was interested in the playing lead role and the director blew him off to hire… Cliff DeYoung? A character actor who has worked steadily over the decades, but to this day is probably best known for a short-lived 70s TV drama called Sunshine? Granted, he is playing a character, it is not supposed to be DeYoung himself. However, even on the most basic level, if we were to give the film the benefit of the doubt that the guy was indeed as big as Leonardo, DeYoung is just under 30 years older than DiCaprio and certainly in lesser physical shape. I find it hard to believe that they are going up for the same roles.

The film moves in fits and starts towards the inevitable showdown between real life and reel life. It takes some interesting, dark twists and turns heading towards its humorless denouement.

Director Hellman has an evocative and moody sense of place and often is reminiscent of legendary Hollywood art-house director Terrence Malick, especially in the fact that his movies look absolutely sumptuous, but the plots don’t always move particularly well or make much sense. Like Malick, Hellman is very sparing in his projects (his last directing job was 22 years ago and his best-known film Two-Lane Blacktop is now 40 years old, making him even more of a professional hermit than the famously slow-moving Malick). Also, like Malick, Hellman is better at showing than he is at telling.

Some of the story makes sense, some of it seems to be just for effect. You never really know exactly what happened here, but that is okay. Not every film has to spoon feed you its plot and motivation. Sometimes movies should be more about the questions that you ask afterwards. Road to Nowhere, if nothing else, leaves you with some questions.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved. Posted: June 6, 2011.


bottom of page