Stories that depict a road trip tend to connect with most audience members considering that we all commonly share in the ultimate extended road trip — that is, the journey of life. Sure, this is a clichéd metaphor that has been discussed countless times throughout the history of filmmaking and storytelling in general, but there is a reason that this formula keeps appearing. It is affective, reminding viewers of moments and situations in their own lives in an understanding, perceptive fashion. Obviously, the comparisons between our own existences and the lives of characters (fictional or otherwise) in a film are never a 1:1 ratio, but the sensation of communion we feel with those characters can still retain its potency. This consciousness translates into the film Two Yellow Lines as director Derek Bauer collaborates with lead actor, producer, and co-writer Zac Titus to speak on something that comes from deep in their hearts with the hopes of, perhaps, reaching the hearts of others.
With emotions drawing from tragic events in each of their respective pasts, Bauer and Titus find a way to tell a beautiful story from painful memories. Bauer’s father struggled with Alzheimer’s for many years that got progressively worse, and Titus lost his sister to 9/11. This is reflected in the two central characters in Two Yellow Lines, Jack Elliot (Zac Titus) and his daughter, Hanna Elliot (Alexis Titus, real-life daughter of Zac). Jack has a consciousness heavily weighed down by the trauma of a wildfire disaster that resulted in the loss of close friends’ lives. He survived the wildfire, but bears PTSD and survivor’s guilt. He has also been estranged from his wife, Kelly (Alicia Ziegler), and young daughter, Hanna. From an outside perspective, Hanna appears rather withdrawn and detached. Speaking on the comparison of his own life and the difficulty of witnessing his father’s illness, Derek Bauer had this to say in his director’s statement about the character of Hanna: “I began to see reflections of that childhood trauma, particularly in Hanna’s view of the world…anger, frustration, apathy, self-doubt, and rebellion.”
That type of vulnerability from a filmmaker is tremendously admirable, and is the beating heart that pumps the energy into Two Yellow Lines. As certain events in the story reunite the father and daughter pair for a motorcycle road trip across Montana, Zac and Alexis Titus are tasked with shouldering the majority of the screen time in this project with a very limited cast of actors. Still, I would hesitate to call this film a “performance-driven” project. While they are technically “performing” in these fictionalized roles, the energy that they are channeling comes from such an intimate reservoir of personal emotion and experience that the line between art/reality is almost blurred. This is not at all to say that the performances from Zac and Alexis are out of their control. Rather, I mean that in a complimentary fashion, as praise of their abilities to effectively guide their own identities into their art.
Indeed, it would be fairly accurate to say that the theme of using one’s own identity as a vehicle for meaningful, relatable storytelling is the ultimate thesis of Two Yellow Lines — and that is precisely what it does so well. This translates into the cinematography, also shot by Derek Bauer. Across a landscape including Yellowstone and the Tetons, the scenery captured by Bauer’s lens is naturally gorgeous. Another interesting note to consider about the road trip element of the film and how it relates to the photography is the fact that the characters are not confined to the interior of a car during their travel, but are riding a motorcycle through the open road and open air. It is almost as if Jack and Hanna form a living, breathing singularity with the physical atmosphere around them. And, how appropriate that as they each become more in tune with their tangible environment (with ebbs and flows, of course), they also find themselves connecting more with each other on a human level as father and daughter. This process, while not without its bumps in the road (quite literally in some cases), is real and honest.
Film as a medium is such a powerful tool for extracting the truth from within us and sharing in that truth with others, however it may look. (I use the term “truth” very loosely here, because it means very different things to different people across various circumstances, but ultimately there is common ground to be found in its foundations). Even in small independent films that are working with limited budgets and resources, the passion and affection (or lack thereof) from the storyteller speaking their truth is what makes or breaks the fundamental outcome. With Two Yellow Lines, that passion shines brightly and boldly.
Final Score: 3.5 out of 5.
Available on VOD and digital November 9th, 2021.
For more information, head to the official Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Two Yellow Lanes website.