4 stars out of 5
The premise of this one doesn't need much summarizing: a girl, a guy, and a robot head trek across the desert of another planet in search of a mythical lake. The worldbuilding is definitely one of the strongest, if not the strongest point in this film, because this desert has all the right stuff to look subtly futuristic and alien, yet still have the atmosphere of a place that humans call "home". There's strange technology discarded and buried in the sand, and the edible flora of the desert have names that aren't quite what we'd call things here on Earth, but as a colonized planet it's certainly believable.
I want to address the only real problem I had with this movie before I go any further. It wasn't necessarily a problem with the larger framework of the movie itself, just something it perpetuates that a lot of other movies also do. The girl, Rola, is written to be the heart to Lernert's head, she follows emotion where he follows reason, and it isn't inherently wrong to have two characters play off each other like this, but almost every time, the airy-fairy, risk-taking party is the woman. Lernert is there to oh-so-patiently mansplain to her, and rescue her when she eats poisonous roots, and remind her to do very basic things. She's there to be magical and beautiful and not know much of anything practical at all. I found this infantilization very irritating even when I was otherwise enjoying this movie.
I did, however, do a lot of enjoying. It's a latecomer, but I really think this is one of the most visually gorgeous films of the year. The aesthetic is really, really homogeneous, there's impressively little variation in color, and I know that two implausibly pale people venturing across an implausibly pale desert where everything is only beige, blue, or green may be, for some, tiring to look at for an hour and a half. But I feel like you have to admit that the cinematography in this is ridiculously well-done even if it's not personally your favorite color scheme.
I almost gave this five stars because there's basically nothing wrong with the way it's made. There are boundaries to plot and setting that it sets up for itself (desert environment, only three main characters, one fixed goal for the two of them) and it works within these boundaries perfectly. Maybe it's not as ambitious as your Alien: Covenants or your District 9s or your Cloverfields. It doesn't have as large a scope, despite being set in an absurdly large desert. But it's more than beautiful enough to be fascinating throughout every minute of its running time, and most of all it actually made me feel uplifted and optimistic about being a human being, living a human life, which is something I haven't felt in a long, long time. Just a pleasant and gentle movie.