It doesn’t take long before the urge to run from Crystal Fairy becomes almost overpowering. The first aroma wafting from Sebastián Silva’s odd Sundancer is pungent; a murky, drugs-happy party somewhere in Chile, as Michael Cera says nothing through a haze of one too many Instagram filters. The idea that these people, and the trip they’ll take, could ever yield anything beyond surface hipsterism seems far-fetched at best.
But, given time, the film comes round. Michael Cera continues his career-long exploration of the obnoxious as Jamie, an American traveller who teams up with some of the locals to go in search of a San Pedro cactus to brew into a psychedelic by the beach. He’s impatient to get out there, and exasperated by the invite he’s extended to Gaby Hoffmann’s hippy, Crystal Fairy. He’s rude to her, even more so as she wins around the rest of the car. He is frustrated by how long it takes them to find someone willing to sell an off cut of the plant. It’s the most authentic character he’s ever delivered; what little we know about Jamie, Cera ensures we explore.
It’s Hoffmann, though, and the likeable Chilean cast that make the film come together, and the group come alive, as the characters go on their trip and the value of temporary friendship crosses language divides. When the film crescendos, turns are taken that surprise and shock, but they’re never unearned. Mysteries are unravelled, and humanity is found. You want to remain forever with these characters in this wonderful moment. But you know, the next morning, that the moment has passed.
In the end, then, like the retro effects of those Instagram filters, this is a reminder of formative times in our young lives. Though they often seem like ordeals when we’re living them, we remember them with nothing but fondness.
Crystal Fairy is in UK cinemas on January 17th.