Michael’s birthday begins with a phone call from his drug addict brother Tobey. Instead of offering birthday wishes, Tobey needs Michael to drive him around Los Angeles. The brothers set off, with Michael unsure of exactly what the purpose of their journey is…
Written and directed by Matt Bissonnette, Passenger Side is an indie film that puts the emphasis on character interaction rather than narrative purpose. Nonetheless, the premise is presented promisingly enough; there is an air of mystery as to the real purpose of Tobey’s quest. As characters, Michael and Tobey are not as well developed as they could be. Although the nature of their relationship is exposed as the film progresses, they are not particularly well rounded as individuals. This detracts from Passenger Side, a film that focuses on conversation rather than action.
The elements of humour present in Passenger Side work well. The film is never raucously funny, but there are some amusing moments. Most of these are provided by the supplementary characters, who merely flit in and out again in their given scene.
Passenger Side emits the feeling that the script has been painstakingly crafted. Given that it is a dialogue-heavy film, this is perhaps unsurprising. Nevertheless, at times it appears like the actors are reading off a rigid script, rather than re-enacting natural conversation. The performances of Adam Scott and Joel Bissonnette (as brothers Michael and Tobey) veer between believable and stilted delivery, depending on the scene.
One of the most appealing elements of Passenger Side is the interesting atmosphere it provides. At the beginning of the movie, it is difficult to ascertain when exactly the film is set. Certain indicators point to a less than contemporary setting, however later references dispel this. Without these references, the film could easily have been set in the 1980s or 1990s.
Adding to this curious feel is Passenger Side‘s location. The film is Californian in most senses. It has a mellow feel that is often associated with the state. The camera work is simplistic; offering a basic shooting style. There are some lovely glimpses of the Californian landscape as the brothers make their way to the various destinations. The music is excellent, very in keeping with the overall style of the film.
The conclusion of Passenger Side is anticlimactic, but this is in keeping with the overall style of the film. Ultimately, Passenger Side is not the most memorable of films, but it is a lightly enjoyable ride.