SIFF Review: Bass Ackwards

103 minutes


“Bass Ackwards” is a road trip film written, directed and starring one Linas Phillips. It’s about a videographer who, having been evicted from his friend’s couch and dumped without explanation by his married girlfriend, decides to reinvigorate his life with a road trip. The vehicle: an old VW van he acquires from an alpaca farm. The destination: his parents’ house in Boston. Along the way, he has many meaningful encounters. The character’s name is Linas. One assumes the film is at least semi-autobiographical.

Linas is a good man who, of late, has made some very poor decisions. When he sets out, he’s short on cash. All of his belongings fit in only a few bags. “Would you still love me if I weren’t giving you food?” he asks a llama. He’s only partly joking. In fact, he’s barely holding it together. But before he reaches his destination, he’ll meet a number of people who will teach him about real pain and how fortunate he actually is. He’ll help some people. He’ll hear some stories. He’ll also make a new best friend in the form of an eccentric borderline vagrant who is trying to reunite with his daughter in New York.

It’s a beautiful film, taking a lot of cues from “Easy Rider” in terms of showcasing the American road and the many characters that live along it. But it’s a more realistic film and, as sad as many of the characters are, more optimistic. Linas is kind of a deadbeat, but he means well. He’s depressed but he’s not a sad sack. He laughs through the pain. He genuinely likes humanity and he’s really trying to find the inspiration he needs to make his life significant.

Unfortunately, we spend a little too much time watching him search. Linas Phillips also edited his film but apparently he couldn’t part with the hundredth shot of the protagonist driving his van on the open road. I get that the van is supposed to represent Linas. It’s antiquated. It’s running on fumes. It’s an annoyance to the bigger, faster vehicles on the road. But it’s got a lotta heart, kid.

We don’t need to see him check into and wake up in every single lonely motel room. We get the point. Sure, it’s a good point. Linas isn’t a bad guy to spend 90 minutes with. Too bad the running time of “Bass Ackwards” is 103 minutes.

Originally published on (now defunct).