An intimate character study succeeds or fails on the basis of its story. Strong characters will only take a movie so far without an interesting plot. Essentially, audiences need something to draw them into what they are watching. The Short History of the Long Road is a coming of age story. The film follows Nola (Sabrina Carpenter) and her father Clint (Steven Ogg). The two travel the country in their van. After a sudden tragedy separates the two, Nola must learn to live on her own.
This type of story is dependent on its characters. Director and writer Ani Simon-Kennedy does a wonderful job. The Short History of the Long Road immediately gives insight into Nola and Clint. Nola is inquisitive and intelligent. Meanwhile, Clint is carefree with a rigid philosophy about life. There is also a deep sense of caring and love that can be seen with each interaction between the two.
The Short History of the Long Road also does a good job of setting up its story. As is the case with most coming of age stories, a rift is developing between Nola and her father. The young girl wants to experience more of the world than Clint is willing to let her. The plot follows a standard pattern that will not surprise anyone. This keeps things moving at a brisk pace. It also prevents The Short Story of a Long Road from having much tension. Nola just moves from one place to another.
The writing does mirror the events of the movie. Nola has spent a lifetime never staying in one place for too long. The film follows this same pattern. Nola encounters many obstacles, but nothing leaves much of an impression. This is seen most in her short stay with a religious family. Her stay there is incredibly short and the whole thing seems superfluous.
Ultimately, creating external conflict is not the point of The Short Story of the Long Road. It is all about the growth of Nola. Her interactions with her father and those she meets are a window into her development. A great performance from Carpenter makes the story especially engaging. Wise beyond her years but still filled with an inexperienced naivete, Carpenter is fantastic in the role.
The Short Story of the Long Road is a strong character study. The story does not take enough time to develop at times, but Sabrina Carpenter remains watchable the entire time. The plot is typical coming of age fare, but the beautiful direction and unique set up will make sure audiences never look away. It is a personal look about growth into adulthood that most will enjoy.