Gasoline Rainbow movie review (2024)

“Gasoline Rainbow” is a road film in its truest form. The best understanding we get of “home” are glimpses of high school IDs and peeks into childhood bedrooms as the teens prepare to leave them behind. Everything else is the open road. From abandoned towns to turbine fields and quick familial drop-ins amidst train hopping, “Gasoline Rainbow” poignantly conflates the experience of youth with the physicality of their vagabond endeavor.

We slowly learn a bit about each of the film’s characters, from alcoholic parents to immigration-based persecutions and feelings of racial isolation. Many individualized anxieties and hopes are spoken via voiceover on top of images of stunning landscapes. And while we may recognize who is speaking, the disembodiment of these deliveries lands us in the face of youth culture rather than sole feelings – the stories aren’t meant to be Nichole’s or Tony’s, but microcosms of what they’re all going through. 

These moments, as moving as they are, remain essential without being the film’s true color. They’re pieces of a puzzle in the broader portrait of Gen-Z youth. What is most impactful are the innocuous moments, conversations and nonverbal connections between the quintet and those they encounter. Their effortless emotional awareness colliding with their sometimes-indignant immaturity is constantly charming. Though you’re unlikely to recall every detail of dialogue, it’s the swarming feeling of familiarity, nostalgia, and spirit that stays with you. 

The Ross brothers’ direction is romantic and, as expected, picturesque. Shots look like postcards you’d send on the road, and a few freeze frames drive this home. A consequential tribute to the landscape of the American West, the film’s framing and plot habitually home in on elements of scale: the kids walking a road lined by wind turbines, running out into seemingly endless expanses of desert, a partying beside the skeleton of a long-abandoned beached ship. They’re fractional in every environment, except within the van, actively driving, where the only thing that exists is them and opportunity. The minuteness of their forms, and of course, lives is always center stage, making their boastful displays of personality and wisdom all the more affecting.