Putting together Christopher Plummer and Vera Farmiga as a father/daughter duo on a cross-country road trip sounds like a no brainer, and in simplistic terms that’s exactly what Boundaries is. And while there’s no denying the acting talent contained within the car, the film itself doesn’t quite go the places it needs to, delivering a story that lacks the emotional connection it attempts to pull from audiences. It’s a serviceable film but nowhere near the quality its star power might make it appear.
Laura (Vera Farmiga) and her son Henry (Lewis MacDougall) embark on a road trip across the country with her father Jack (Christopher Plummer) to take him to her sister who lives in Los Angeles after he is kicked out of his retirement home. Growing up, Laura was never too close with her father so she just wants the trip to be over as quickly as possible so she can return to her normal life, but Jack has other plans, namely sell his marijuana reserves at various stops along the way to make a little extra cash. This includes Laura’s ex-husband and Henry’s father, Leonard (Bobby Cannavale). Part of Laura hopes that this trip with bring her closer to her father, but as they get closer and closer to LA she realizes that he’s still the man he was all those years ago.
Road trips are used all the time in film as this transformative catalyst for a person’s character or sense of self discovery. It’s a troupe I’m okay with if done properly, but Boundaries doesn’t devote enough time to develop its characters enough for it to have any real impact. There’s no denying that Jack has been a terrible father to his kids and only seems to care about whatever he can personally get out of any situation rather than what he can do for others. The film does a great job at showing that. What is fails to show is how or even why he changes. Of course by the end of the film his relationship with Laura is shown to be all hearts and rainbows, with Jack finally becoming the kind of grandfather to Henry that she always wanted to see him as, but it all feels so rushed. I never believed that he was a changed man at all because he never showed it until the absolute very end when it was necessary to the story.
The performances are fine, especially Vera Farmiga. You can tell that Laura is completely fed up with the situation she has found herself in and that she is constantly doing her best to make it work, despite things oftentimes going in the opposite direction she would like. If nothing else, her performance is what kept me interested in the film. Plummer is good in typical Plummer fashion, but it’s Farmiga who sells the film.
Boundaries doesn’t do anything extraordinary, delivering an average film that’s worth watching if you have nothing better to do. The performances are great, but the story lacks any real depth to it. The film is a road trip on autopilot, getting you from Point A to Point B as quick as possible with little fanfare in between.