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La Pampa (Block Pass) | 2024 Cannes Film Festival Review

La Pampa (Block Pass) | 2024 Cannes Film Festival Review

Will You Be My Ride or Die?: Chevrollier Ramps Up the Chaos in Portrait of Sons & Missing Fathers

Exploring themes of rebellion, shame, and unresolved anguish, La Pampa (aka Block Pass) delves into the profound challenges of articulating inner turmoil. This setup resembles Rebel Without a Cause, but with dirt bikes as the chosen mode of death-defying delinquency with daddy and in-the-closet issues to boot. Actors Sayyid El Alami and Amaury Foucher embody blood-brother dynamics in Antoine Chevrollier’s stagey, coming-of-age drama feature debut and while the film excels at portraying teenagers navigating an adult world, it sometimes fetiches the turmoil and silly wrong turns that the collective make.

From the onset, we are introduced to the relationship dynamics between Willy (Sayyid El Alami) and Jojo (Amaury Foucher) through an introductory sequence where one plays chicken with fate. Speeding through a countryside intersection, Jojo exhibits recklessness, while Willy is more inclined towards risk assessment. The two have been a support system for each other, especially following the recent and difficult passing of Willy’s father. Jojo’s father, portrayed by Damien Bonnard, is a tough-love type with a temper. Life on the racetrack should feel like a breather from life’s complications, but instead, it gets magnified. Of course, not all people are awful – stepfathers can be cool and girls too (sometimes they are the unexacting buoy) if Willy allows them into his “space”.

Co-written with Bérénice Bocquillon and Faïza Guène, the French language title of La Pampa refers to a motocross park in a village, while the international title “Block Pass” means to barely overtake — which is a perfect allegory for what appears to be constantly happening here in this portrait of missing fathers and troubled sons. It’s a film about testing the limits of sexuality, family dynamics with young people trying to find that one person who cares for them. With so many bent out of shape character, with unchallenged and unwarranted anger for dramatic purpose sake, La Pampa fails to make the necessary oil changes either feeling too rushed or a bit too fatalistic of an approach for what is a story about keeping it bottled up inside.

Reviewed on May 20th at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival – Critics’ Week. 104 Mins.

★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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