“Traveling Light,” directed by Bernard Rose, offers a thought-provoking cinematic experience that delves into the intersections of privilege, and societal divisions, during the COVID-19 pandemic era.
At the centre of the film is Caddy (played by Tony Todd) who throughout twenty-four-hour searches for his missing son, who has been living on the streets of Los Angeles. While working as an Uber/Delivery driver Caddy crosses paths with Harry (played by Danny Huston), a cult leader who is holding a ceremony without fear or consideration of the restrictions.
With its evocative visuals, strong performances, and a narrative that questions the notion of shared crisis, the film has its unique ways of connecting with each viewer.
However, some inconsistencies in the portrayal of the pandemic and character development slightly hinder its overall impact. Besides Caddy, all the other characters do not seem grounded or central to the story being told enough. You find yourself constantly wondering, who they are and what their backstories are.
One of the notable strengths of “Traveling Light” lies in its visual presentation. Rose, alongside an uncredited director of photography, expertly crafts a fever dream-like atmosphere, saturated with colours that give Los Angeles an otherworldly quality. The contrast between the affluent hilltop residences and the gritty street-level realities is visually striking and effectively highlights the stark divisions within the city. The occasional use of slow-motion and dissolves adds to the dream-like quality, enhancing the emotional impact of the scenes.
The performances in the film are commendable, particularly that of Tony Todd, who portrays Caddy, the protagonist of the story. Known for his intimidating roles, Todd showcases his versatility by delivering a restrained and empathetic performance. His portrayal of a father searching for his mentally ill son on the streets of Los Angeles is poignant and layered. You can almost feel his pain and understand his motivation. He does well also to keep a fine balance showing a jovial fun side as he interacts with some of the other characters especially some of those picked up in his Uber.
Additionally, the ensemble cast, including Danny Huston and Olivia d’Abo, brings depth to their respective characters, contributing to the film’s overall authenticity.
One of the film’s core strengths lies in its exploration of privilege and the disconnectedness of the privileged from the realities of the pandemic. Through the lens of Caddy’s rideshare experiences, the narrative exposes the ignorance and self-centeredness of the affluent. The juxtaposition of extravagant parties and disregard for safety measures with Caddy’s genuine concern for his son highlights the stark contrast between the haves and have-nots. This examination of societal divisions resonates strongly and prompts viewers to reflect on their privileges and responsibilities.
The film also captures the horrific murder of George Floyd and the events that followed which resulted in protests, riots and looting in the heat of the pandemic that required people to isolate and keep social distance. Although this isn’t much of a central focus of the film, it is captured in a way that is commendable and contributes to the story.
Furthermore, “Traveling Light” deserves recognition for daring to depict the pandemic onscreen. While many films have avoided the topic altogether, Rose takes a bold step by intertwining the narrative with the COVID-19 crisis and the George Floyd-related riots. This decision lends the film a timely and relevant backdrop, providing an opportunity for social commentary and exploration of the consequences of shared crises.
However, “Traveling Light” is not without its weaknesses. Despite its commendable portrayal of the pandemic, there are instances where the film’s consistency falters. Characters who strongly advocate for mask-wearing are seen without masks without a clear reason, undermining their credibility and the message they initially conveyed. These inconsistencies momentarily disrupt the immersive experience and detract from the film’s overall impact.
Additionally, the film occasionally loses focus on its central narrative. While exploring the parties and experiences of other characters provides context, the extensive detour from Caddy’s search for his son can be jarring and dilutes the emotional investment in his journey. The intent to emphasize privilege through this narrative choice is apparent, but at times, it overshadows Caddy’s important quest, leading to a slight imbalance in the storytelling.
Through its striking visuals and compelling performances, the film captivates and challenges audiences to reflect on their privileges and the consequences of shared crises. I would rate this 6/10.
In conclusion, “Traveling Light” is a thought-provoking film that successfully navigates themes of privilege, societal divisions, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it does feel like many of the Covid themed films that have been released in the last couple of years, this one attempts to tackle a much greater subject that can be missed by many.