21st Aug2019

‘States’ Review

by Dom Hastings

Stars: Jeremy O. Harris, Alex Essoe, Jasmin Kaset, Makenzie Green, D.C. Paul | Written and Directed by Zach Gayne

States w​ill make you contemplate whether ‘normal’ people go on road trips…


Written and directed by Zach Gayne, ​States ​is the documentary-feel narrative feature on the crazies of the road, establishing a surreal balance of curiosity as to why people are weird and where said people are heading to. In ​Easy Rider​, Wyatt (Honda) and Billy (Hopper) were in search of America… 50 years later, the likes of a naked man in Mexico and a poet riding with Mormons, are most likely in search of the very same thing.

Shaky-cam all over the show, ​States ​immediately opens with one of its characters in a state: a drunk one. Also butt-naked, Michael Wieck’s character, simply credited as, “The Man From Michigan” is in Mexico without any ID, any money and of course, any clothes. Someway from home, his first goal is to get to Texas – but how? One of many others sharing screen time is a poet, Simon (Jeremy O. Harris). Riding with Jaz and Kenz (played by Jasmin Kaset and Makenzie Green respectively), they are on their way to Utah (they are Mormons, obviously), but their journey consists of almost bizarre psychedelia, a swimming pool and a ton of exquisite poetry. Other characters range from a continually crying man to a crazed alien obsessive.

Visually and stylistically, this film screams documentary and you ​will ​forget that ​States is a work of fiction. The success of deception here is not only a result of the visual style, but of the acting also. From camera shots to actors’ lines, there is an occasional suggestion of ad lib – in these instances, if they are ​real​, then is there really a deception at all? ​States ​is a masterpiece is blurring and thinning the lines between what is real, real ​and fake.

After the drama genre, the road movie is, perhaps, the most applicable type of film to the human kind. Out on the road, we discover places, other people, but most importantly, ourselves – all occurring to render the final destination almost irrelevant. Such as the case with ​States​, there is a higher importance with what and where the varying characters discover throughout this 99-minute film. As expected with any road movie, the weird and wild aspects of life are there to be discovered by the film’s characters and shared with its audience – for those with the desire of seeing this convention of the road movie, ​States w​orks to type and fans won’t be disappointed.

The only fault with ​States ​would be that there are too many characters and too few to legitimately care about, thus experiencing a few characters and their respective journeys to be “filler”. However, having said that, the Michigan Man does re-appear only for comedic purpose, thus being established as a filler for comedic purposes. Maybe being a “filler” in this almost anthology-type film is not too much of a negative thing, but a character and their journey being boring, is unforgivable in this film.

States i​s by no means a perfect film, nor is it a perfect road movie, but it is a film with provocative interest, even if there is substantial ad-libbing. Zach Gayne’s progression from making short film is a clear success here and has resulted in the creation of a delightful film. Narrative or documentary? You decide.

*** 3/5

States is out, in the US, now.


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