Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, this is a simple story about family ties, love and redemption directed by Wim Wenders and written by Sam Shepard.
Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) mysteriously wanders out of the desert and is found unconscious by a German Doctor who calls the only number in his pocket. Having been missing for four years, his brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) is amazed when he comes to collect him and drives him from Texas to his home in Los Angeles, which he shares with his French wife Anne (Aurore Clément). On the road we find out that Travis’ eight year old son Hunter has been living with them after Jane, his mother (Nastassja Kinski) also disappeared. What has happened to Travis and where is Jane?
This is a slow, ponderous film, each character is given plenty of time as we see their new family develop. They are gentle and kind with each other and there’s a lovely scene where they watch a family film of themselves being happy. Travis is able to reassemble himself and his relationship with his young son, Walt tries to understand Travis and Anne while welcoming Travis, is afraid she will lose Hunter to him. But despite her worries she tells Travis that she has been in contact with Jane and that she leaves money in a bank account for Hunter on the same day every month from a bank in Houston.
Back on the road for Travis, this time with Hunter as they try to track down Jane. When they find her she’s working in a peep show club, talking to strangers on a telephone in a booth with a one way mirror. As Travis starts to talk to her it feels like a confessional and we find out about their marriage and his disappearance. He’s a man lost in grief, that cannot forgive himself. He’s able to mend the bond between Jane and Hunter but he can’t allow himself a second chance of happiness, and walks away again.
But this emotional intimacy is told against a background of neon colours. The aesthetic is bold and grand, the road trips are full of seedy motel rooms and diners but there’s poetry in the mundane as each scene looks fabulous and the Ry Cooder soundtrack adds the lonesome sound of the cowboy .