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The Royal Road

HD   NR Closed Captioning

Jenni Olson

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About the Movie

A cinematic essay in defense of remembering, The Royal Road offers up a primer on Junipero Serra's Spanish colonization of California and the Mexican American War alongside intimate reflections on nostalgia, the pursuit of unavailable women, butch identity and Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo — all against a contemplative backdrop of 16mm urban California landscapes, and featuring a voiceover cameo by Tony Kushner. This bold, innovative film from acclaimed San Francisco filmmaker Jenni Olson combines rigorous historical research with lyrically written personal monologue and relates these seemingly disparate stories from an intimate, colloquial perspective to tell a one-of-a-kind California tale.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 15
  • Fresh: 13
  • Rotten: 2
  • Average Rating: 7.3/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: A poetic film essay that uses landscape photography and voiceover narration to ruminate on a wide swath of topics ... – Dennis Harvey, Variety, Jan 23, 2015

Fresh: If this ambitious film finally never quite coheres into a single whole, something which an artificial division into several chapters only helps to underline, it does provide a lot to chew on along the way. – Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter, Jan 23, 2015

Fresh: Suffused with melancholy, longing, and chagrin, Jenni Olson's supple cine-essay The Royal Road is, above all, a film against forgetting. – Melissa Anderson, Village Voice, Oct 27, 2015

Fresh: A breathtaking cinematic essay. – Sam Fragoso,, Feb 11, 2015

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

Witty, exhilarating & stunningly beautiful exploration of unrequited love, California & the movies

An exhilarating exploration of identity, relationships, nostalgia and the mis-remembering of history, all set against the territory now called California which is the film's second biggest character. The Royal Road refers to the main North/South throrougfare during Spanish colonial times, parts of which remain today: El Camino Real. Olson presents a landscape fllm, with locked off shots and long takes forcing you to really look at the environments of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Shot on 16mm film mostly in the early morning or fog these images have this magic golden glow, and start with great economy of motion inside the shots until the end, where all of a sudden the motion picks up alot. But the camera never moves during any given shot. The editing gives the film a lyrical, hypnotic rhythm that will draw you in, even as you listen to the literary monologue of the unseen narrator, a lesbian (a fictionalized version of the filmmaker) with a penchant for falling in love with unavailable girls (who live at the other side of the Royal Road) and a love for retreating into movies and novels. You'll also find a cameo recording of Tony Kushner, a witty exegesis on movies like Vertigo and Roman Holiday, and a peeling back of the mythology of the origin of California, and the horrible toll extracted on Mexico in the process. Though it's experimental in some senses, it's complete accessible to everyone regardless of background. It's fiendishly constructed; as you have more time you will more of the string, the yarn and the complex braiding of the narrative. Beautiful, witty, brainy, fresh, and totally different from normal films. I highly recommend it. (note: I am a friend of the filmmaker and a financial supporter of the project, but I'd say exactly the same thing if I weren't)

The Royal Road
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  • $9.99
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Released: 2016

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