Alt-Lives Drama ‘Pali Road’ Car-Crashes Into a (Familiar) Road Less Taken


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Woman gets in car accident, wakes up in a nether-version of her life, and questions this new reality as she fails to convince the people around her that what she’s experiencing is not, in fact, her life.

This is explained away to Lily (Michelle Chen) by a doctor (Henry Ian Cusick of Lost, once again dealing with the multiverse in Hawaii) as delayed amnesia brought about by a concussion, but her painfully real memories suggest otherwise. That the crash occurs just after Lily turns down a marriage proposal from her charming boyfriend is no coincidence, of course, nor is the fact that she wakes up married to the asshole who was always antagonizing her beau — this is a vision of something that should never have been, not a glimpse into life as it should be.

Chen’s full-bodied commitment to her role adds something new to this familiar scenario, which also benefits from its idyllic island setting; psychodrama and Hawaii pair surprisingly well. Director Jonathan Lim relates this all to a Chinese folktale about star-crossed lovers who were forbidden from being with each other, and Pali Road is occasionally moving as it dips into Lily’s reveries and memories of things that increasingly appear not to exist.

Her waking moments, meanwhile, are too weighed down with on-the-nose dialogue about the disconnect between mind and heart for her subconscious lessons to feel like the revelatory insights they’re treated as.

Pali Road
Directed by Jonathan Lim
Opens April 29, AMC Empire 25