The British filmmaker Sally Potter’s films always attract a respectable following with arthouse audiences, but with the exception of ‘Orlando’, none of them have been commercially successful. Several of them, like this new movie, received mixed critical reviews mainly because they are too often considered indulgent and too personal.
Like Leo (Javier Bardem) the protagonist in The Roads Not Taken, Potter had a younger brother who she lost to early onset dementia. Whether Leo’s story is based on that of Nic Potter is unsure, but it seems most likely that it must have affected Potter when she wrote the script.
This is the story of a day in the life of Leo when his young daughter Molly (Elle Fanning) struggles to get her father out of his bed to negotiate trips to the dentist and the optometrist There is also an unplanned side trip to the E.R. It all starts in a panic when Leo is not answering either the phone of his front door : its a frenetic pace that never eases up all day.
As Molly valiantly maneuvers a very uncooperative Leo around NY she is also dealing with phone calls with her employer as this is the day she is expecting to be confirmed in a new job she has been preparing for months.
As the film’s title hints at, Leo drifts in and out of dreaming how his life may have turned out if he had made other choices. In one of these he is on a Greek Island trying to write a novel and chatting up some young girl the same age. In another scenario, Leo never left Mexico, but stayed behind to marry his sweetheart Dolores (Salma Hayek).
These dreams/flashbacks are not easy to follow, as is the appearance in real time of his ex wife Rita (Laura Linney) who although is on friendly terms with Leo, she doesn’t believe his dementia is totally genuine.
The day seems to really drag on way too long, and we know by now there is now way it is going to finish well. In one of the ‘dreams’ he asks the girl on the Greek Island what type of finishes she likes for stories. It was too tempting for us not to answer too…..