As dying-man’s-last-road trip dramas go, “Hole in the Wall (Gat in Die Muur)” has more “hole” than “wall.”
Dull, uninvolving and downright off-putting in the story it tells and the way that it tells it, “Wall” doesn’t make sense until you consider that its star co-directed it. It’s a dubious star vehicle and something of a head-scratcher, even after we realize that.
Rian, played by veteran character actor Andre Odendaal (who shares his name with a famous South African cricketer and historian,), is something of a physical wreck. He’s getting oxygen and still smoking, well past his prime and yet somehow catnip to the ladies.
An impulsive, demanding sixtysomething, his ex-wife’s description of him seems to fit — “a selfish, very charming, clever pedigreed as—-e.”
We catch up with Rian as he’s acting on two impulses. He’s paid a beautiful and seemingly-charmed young woman, Ava (Tinarie van Wyk Loots) to drive him on a month-long road trip. And he’s “urgently” summoned his estranged son from college, Ben (Nicholas Campbell), to “interrupt my life” for this trip of unspecified purpose, indeterminate length or destination.
There’s nothing for it but for Ben to comply, and they’re off — Ava driving, Ben sullen and sulking, Rian complaining about their silence.
We’ve guessed it before anybody admits it. Rian is dying, “stage four,” all of that. What he’s brought them along on this trip for is to “find out why you’re here,” on Earth, living this life.
That’s what he tells Ben, anyway. Ava is “an angel,” and seriously sexy. Is she here for Rian, or for the kid to fall in love with? An old friend asks Rian if she’s Ben’s “girlfriend.”
Our “Around the World with Netflix” trek takes us along the scenic, rugged coast of South Africa, with the icy Southern Ocean washing up on it and Black South Africans apparently priced out of even spending time there. A plainly shoehorned-in and under-explained connection between Rian and a Black family turns up in the third act, allowing the white folk a chance to experience a traditional Black South African wedding, and Rian to both order them around, and seem generous because apparently he’s left them property.
Like the only other Black face in the movie, they’re former servants of his.
Father and son have some issues to work out, which are perfunctorily handled. The kid doesn’t weep at Dad’s bad news, and only tires of his father’s spontaneity and irresponsibility long after the viewer has. Rian has another “secret,” which is introduced and abandoned with a plop.
Rian stumbles into a much younger woman in a public restroom, and the movie suggests this is a sexy and flirtatious moment. Nah. It’s creepy as hell.
We see little evidence of the character’s “charm” — just see others responding as if they’ve been charmed by something that would irk the average Jack or Jill. Grabbing an armful of junk foot and trotting back out to the SUV, only (over) paying when the store proprietress protests, etc.
The film’s general ineptitude is exemplified by sending our travelers to a seaside Elvis-tribute “Graceland” inn, only to do pretty much nothing sweet, cute, funny or Elvisy with it.
Maybe it’s just me, but I never bought into the Dad’s “larger than life” status, his “charming” label or apparent sex appeal. The dying man’s story arc is ill-defined and the “growing” by one and all wouldn’t seem justified if there was any evidence of it to begin with.
But hey, the scenery’s nice.
Rating: TV-MA, sex, constant smoking, profanity
Cast: Andre Odendaal, Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Nicholas Campbell, Bheki Mkhwane and Anna Davel
Credits: Directed by Andre Odendaal and Johan Vorster, scripted by Susan Coetzer. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:44