It’s 1974, and three friends have traveled from Spain to the U.S. for the first time. They decide to take a road trip through the mythic American West, renting a car and blasting some tunes as they barrel through the desert on their way to Las Vegas.
They soon pass a hitchhiker and bicker over whether or not they should pick him up. Roberto, the more conscientious friend, doesn’t want the man to suffer in the relentless sun. But Paco — who’d rather smoke a joint than sit next to a sweaty passerby — says no. Roberto wins out, but his Good Samaritan impulses lead to a series of mishaps that derail their vacation.
Written and directed by Pablo Riesgo, this short comedy of errors is essentially a “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” gone wrong, told with terrific visual flair and a solid feel for how strongly defined characters can clash, to both comedic and dramatic effect. Like the trip itself, the film begins with a spirit of adventure. Shot in Borrego Springs, the sun-soaked cinematography and color palette highlight the striking beauty of the desert. But, as our trio learns, that wide-open horizon leaves plenty of room to get themselves into trouble.
The action isn’t particularly outlandish or “big,” but the crackling dialogue between such disparate characters provides the frissons of amusement and tension for the first part of the narrative. Like many friendships between three people, there are often two radically opposed poles in the mix of personalities, with one who functions as neutral ground between them. This set of friends is no different, and they bicker over the balance between responsibility and hedonism. Roberto is more worried about paying fines on a dirty, smelly rental car; Paco just wants to have a good time.
Actors Jesus Lloveras, Gonzalo Bouza and Ruben Navarro have a believable mix of indulgence, annoyance and rapport that characterizes a long-running group of buddies. Their banter has an easy-going rhythm that hits the one-liners and zingers just right, and their few moments of broad comedy offer a perfect flourish of fun. But the story generally stays in a realistic register, and when one bad decision leads to another, they have to find their way out of the situation. The events that unfold may not be entirely unexpected, but it highlights their differences and turns their formerly promising trip into a nightmare.
“Tiro Dominica” has plenty of opportunities in its narrative to go broad and outlandish, but it works because it keeps its attention focused on the dynamics of friendship, mining them for both humor and tension. Theirs is a road trip that goes nowhere, as well as a portrait of a dysfunctional friendship that nevertheless manages to go on, driving off towards the horizon. Where they’re going, no one knows, but it’s highly like that our three friends will continue to bicker and exasperate one another, getting themselves in and out of scrapes with aplomb. The trip is a fail, but friendship is forever — for better or worse.