But Sokolow scratches the surface of potentially more interesting material in her discussions with Baumer’s girlfriend, Ada Smailbegović. She explains the allure of this unusual man and the interests that connected them, but she also speaks with candor and regret when she says she wishes he’d consulted her before setting out on his trek, because she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. Just that little glimmer of complexity is tantalizing.
Some of the day-in, day-out details of his ordeal are compelling from a sheer curiosity perspective: what he included in his backpack (nail clippers, Lärabars, a head lamp), or how salt and chemicals scattered on the road after a snowfall trash his feet. And as he heads west from the liberal comfort of New England into the Trump-friendly territory of rural New Jersey and central Pennsylvania, he encounters people who perhaps didn’t believe in climate change but are willing to listen to him as he shares facts and statistics.
Even more encouragingly, Baumer meets countless strangers along the road who offer him food, a ride and—often—shoes, mistaking him for a homeless man in need. A gentleman in a pickup truck stops him in the middle of a hailstorm and offers to drive him somewhere, warning Baumer that he’ll catch pneumonia and die if he stays out like this in such harsh conditions.
Baumer gives them all a cheery thank you and tells them he’ll be fine, that he wants to be barefoot, and politely continues on his path. Despite the film’s sad ending, these moments of human interconnectedness at a time of such vast polarization ultimately represent a step in the right direction.
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