This heartfelt and funny American Indie film slipped under the radar on its theatrical release, but will hopefully find its home on DVD. Made by hotly tipped young filmmaker Matt Bissonnette, it charts a day in the company of two brothers who embark on a road trip across LA County in order to seek out one of their lost loves. Driving the car is Michael; a sarcastic and guarded writer who is guilt-tripped into chauffeuring his brother Tobey, a recovering drug addict, across town.
As in all good road trip movies, the journey experienced by the two brothers is as much an emotional one as it is physical. When they first meet up after what we assume is a long time without seeing one another, the two banter and bicker like all brothers do, but there is an underlying sense of distrust and uncertainty. At first Michael struggles to accept Tobey’s new found sobriety and fears their trip across LA is perhaps still motivated by Tobey’s illicit past. After much pushing however, he eventually gets to the crux of why Tobey needs his help. In order to turn his life around and give it new found meaning, Tobey decides he needs to find and reconnect with an old flame who at one point devastated his life.
The two brothers inevitably bond and begin to once again let each other into their private thoughts and their hopes for the future. The duos are the centre of the film’s focus for the entire runtime and the two leads carry the film brilliantly. Joel Bissonette gives Tobey a fragile edge and despite his reformed and kindly nature, we get the definite sense that he feels he must find this girl in order to keep his reformed life on track. Michael is played by Adam Scott, star of Step Brothers and hit US comedies like Party Down and Parks and Recreation. Scott injects Michael with not only great humour but also an overriding sense of apathy that alludes to emptiness in his own life. It’s clear from the outset that he is far from happy with his own lot and his mysterious calls to an unseen ex girlfriend’s answering machine show a flicker of frailty behind his confident exterior.
Despite addressing heavy themes like recovery from drug-addiction and estranged brothers coping with their imperfect lives, Passenger Side is full of warmth and genuine funny moments. A lot of these come thanks to the host of strange characters who the brothers stumble upon over the course of the day. There’s an overly friendly transsexual prostitute, an ungrateful drunken party girl and a creepy elderly lady who invites them both for dinner. It’s also in these brief encounters that we glimpse the brother’s contrasting personalities. Whilst Michael wants to avoid helping these oddballs at all costs, Tobey consistently wants to go out of his way to help them. Tobey’s reformed personality has seen him turn his back on selfish ways, whereas Michael’s solitary existence has ensured he is still, to quote his brother, “an asshole.”
Naturally, over the course of the day the brothers open up to each other and begin to address their long unspoken issues. The final scene especially is a moving moment which you won’t see coming and which tests real brotherly love to the limit. This is a real little gem and well worth seeking out.
Director: Matt Bissonnette
Stars:Adam Scott, Joel Bissonnette and Richard Medina
Runtime: 85 min