Review: Queer Road Trip Movie 'Baja Come Down' Runs Out of Gas

by Megan Kearns

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday January 25, 2022

'Baja Come Down'
'Baja Come Down'  (Source:Ariztical)

How do you salvage a fractured romance? How do you know when to stay or when to go? Travel can reveal both strengths and strains in a relationship, a subject that queer road trip film "Baja Come Down" explores.

Directed by Anderson Matthew, "Baja Comes Down" stars Caitlin Michael Riley (who's queer) as Hannah and Michelle Ortiz as Charlie: Two queer women attempting to resuscitate their rocky romance by taking a road trip from Los Angeles to Baja California, Mexico.

Hannah has never been before; Charlie is Mexican American, and has spent time there with her family. While driving, Charlie points out places she knows. They — along with Hannah's adorable cat, Lou — sleep in a tent on the beach and eventually drive to a quaint motel by the ocean.

The film is shot in in 35mm, and balmy landscapes, lush palm trees, and cotton candy sunset skies fill the screen. A lilting, poetic rhythm imbues the picture, punctuated by soft-spoken narration, lulling ocean waves, and a slow guitar score. There are two great dissolves in the film: Hannah's face comes into view over the ocean, then the image behind Hannah transitions from the ocean to a wall in her house. All these elements evoke a hypnotic, dreamlike ambiance.

Hannah, a writer, narrates how she met Charlie, a dancer, and how they grew apart. She blames Charlie for her past year of writer's block. Hannah writes on their trip; her poetry appears as text on-screen. Hannah says she and Charlie have a "push-pull of intimacy and isolation," but they can't let go of each other.

Later, Charlie narrates her dating history (unfortunately, misgendering a trans man ex-partner) and coming out to her parents. She reveals her compulsion to take care of Hannah, like her mother. I appreciate that we hear each of their perspectives. While I wish their sentiments wove throughout the film more fluidly, they illuminate what remains unspoken between the two women.

Unfortunately, stilted and contrived acting hinders the film. Hannah and Charlie lack chemistry, with no passion or camaraderie sparking between them. While a low-budget Kickstarter-funded film, some technical elements could be stronger: The sound design is rough at times; the cinematography looks murky during a nighttime beach scene.

"Baja Come Down" meanders, feeling like a mood piece, its langorous tempo mirroring how Hannah and Charlie are reluctant to leave each other and reticent to express their feelings in order to potentially strengthen their bond.

While I yearned for a more compelling film, I truly appreciate the queer love story and evocative aesthetic. It elusively captures how we feel bound to those we love and the vacillating odyssey of finding yourself.

"Baja Come Down" releases on DVD and Digital on January 25, 2022.