Gerry (Damon) and Gerry (Affleck) are two young men driving through the Utah desert. They stop to take a hike and to find the "thing" but end up wandering from the designated wilderness trail and become lost. In their own words they "Gerryed" things. Apart from a brief appearance of an out of focus family also walking on the wilderness trail we don't see anyone else until the final few seconds of the film and the dialogue is sparse and brief. Like many of Van Sants films what we see around the actors and what we hear aside from the dialogue is as important as the "stars" and their dialogue.
Here the desert is a brilliant vision of browns, greens and golds. Haunting piano music floats in and out of our hearing alongside the roar of wind, crickets and jarring noises. The two leads are shot from distance to highlight how insignificant they are in comparison to the landscape they have become lost in.
It is a film that I am sure irritated several critics and probably many audience members. It would be an easy film to dismiss. It's "arty" and, possibly, pretentious but it is also stylish, sleek and moving. As the plight of Gerry and Gerry becomes increasingly hopeless the tension rises and the films ending is shocking and surprising.
With so little to say the performances of the leads are all the more impressive. Their movement, the way they walk and interact with each other changes slowly and almost imperceptibly as the film progresses from strutting, confident and assured young men to shambling, shuffling, decaying shells. Both Affleck and Damon manage to convey a variety of emotions without ever having to give way to the temptation of signposting them by speaking.
This is genuine independent film-making. No desire to make money or impress studio executives here just a willingness to make something beautiful and artistic. Van Sant is a director who, increasingly, must be seen as one of my generations finest.