After a fight with her mother, rebellious teenager Sofia decides to hitchhike to Italy in search of her biological father. After many unsuccessful attempts to flag down a car, she finally is picked up by a middle-aged man named Michael, who seems to be escaping some personal problems himself.
Sofia is charming, idealistic and free-spirited; Michael is wary, reticent and more than a little grumpy. They seem to have nothing in common, but as their trip together progresses, they discover they have more of a connection than they thought.
Written and directed by Martin Monk, this lucid, affecting short drama is a road movie on the surface. Its sun-worn visuals capture both the humility and poeticism of the modern landscape, weaving together gas stations, diners and highways. But it is also a lovely portrait and meditation on the profound power of friendship and fellowship, even between the most unlikely people.
At first, the pair of travelers barely tolerate one another, sharing a short leg of their respective journeys with wariness and the self-containment of two strangers haunted by their dilemmas and mistrustful of others. They seem to give one another space, confining their conversation to cursory politeness and chit-chat.
But then the relationship subtly shifts, as the pair grow increasingly curious about one another. When Michael discovers that Sofia is running away from home, he confronts Sofia about lying, which sends her in search of another ride. She is angry and hurt, but when Michael stays behind to watch out for the young woman, Sofia continues her voyage with him. From there, they talk more openly, as Sofia lets loose with the feelings she’s pent up inside.
The writing is profoundly subtle and humane, balancing both the realism of the world portrayed onscreen and the subtle emotional currents of two people learning to open up with one another. Actors Lia Wilfing and Christian Dolezal as Sofia and Michael, respectively, occupy two different temperaments. Wilfing has the more outward-directed role, portraying the curiosity and impetuousness of youth with a compelling freshness. Dolezal plays his role with an internal preoccupation that seems like ordinary stoicism at first but teases at something more.
The two performers build their flickers of initial tolerance into a rapport that’s no less genuine for its restraint, particularly as Michael begrudgingly reveals a sense of responsibility towards the young teenager in his temporary charge. That conscientious care proves to be a balm for Sofia, helping her rethink her actions and perhaps even her destiny.
A selection at Cannes, “Favourites” is, in many ways, about the transformational power of listening — because, on the surface, listening is all that Sofia and Michael do for one another. They take what could be a series of surface-level conversations into the realm of self-revelation, as they share their thoughts and find unexpected common ground and understanding. Theirs is the simple but generous act of being present, with the acceptance, openness and honesty that perhaps only two strangers temporarily sharing time and space can give one another. Both wrestle with absences and ambivalences with their loved ones in different ways, as befitting their personalities and stages in life. But for a moment they fill in those gaps for each other, especially for Sofia, who perhaps gets a sense of what would be like to have a protective and caring father figure. And then they part, having changed one another in small but meaningful ways that will no doubt linger well past their time together.