Film Review: ROADS IN FEBRUARY (LA RUTAS EN FEVRERO) (Canada/Uruguay 2017) ***

Roads in February Poster

The film opens with a fully blank and black screen.  A door opens, letting the light into a room, revealing the film’s protagonist and main character, Sarita or Sarah from Canada.   She is shown twice making a phone call to someone who does not pick up the telephone.  In another scene, a fly is shown landing on a glass double door before Sarita shoos it away.  It is noticed that Sarita is, speaking in Spanish on some bus trip or other, making a journey of great distance.  Director Jerkovic, who certainly takes her time to tell her story tells the tale of a young girl, Sarita who travels to a remote village in Uruguay to visit her grandmother.
The visit brings out an old skeleton in the closet.  The two have to come to terms with the loss of Sarita’s father, Magda’s son who left Uruguay for whatever reason and passed away.  Magda never saw him again and somehow puts the blame on Sarita.
Jerkovic’s camera often comes up close to the facial expressions of the characters to both reveal their emotions and amusements.  One instance has Magda companioning that Sarita bought the incorrect and more expensive bread.  Despite Sarita telling her that it was her who paid and wanted to give her grandmother a treat, Magda still fusses.  The look on Sarita’s face as a result is priceless.  Another instance is the visit of Magda’s old friend to the house, Olga.  Olga is losing it, Magda insists.  But the camera reveals Olga as a bright, always cheerful, inquisitive friend and not like what the audience would expect after first hearing Magda’s description of her.  One wishes there would be more scenes with the amusing Olga.
Sarita is no angel.  While visiting granny, she scores some weed from the local boys, trespasses into a rich family personal swimming pool and flirts around with a handsome hunk.  Girls will be girls!  Still director Jerkovic elicits the audience’s sympathy for the vulnerable heroine.  She has her camera stolen losing all the valuable photographs she had taken on her trip. She falls off her bike while riding away frustrated.  She incurs quite the nasty bruise on her one leg.

Jerkovic’s imprint is clearly stamped in her film, where one can feel the heat of village surroundings and the alienation of the two characters, enhanced by controlled performances by Arlen Aguayo Stewart and Gloria Demassi.
ROADS IN FEBRUARY premiered at TIFF and opens at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.  It won the jury prize for Best First Feature and shows Jerkovic as a new Canadian talent to watch.  Director Katherine Jerkovic will be present for an introduction and post-screening Q&A on Saturday, July 20 at 7:10pm!  There should be many interesting questions that can be asked such as how autobiographical the film is and how close is the director to the character in her film.