Eldorado Upends Low Expectations of an Often Trite Genre


The title of Bouli Lanners’s modest, yet surprisingly affecting, road-trip/buddy movie, which refers to an imaginary place of great wealth and opportunity, isn’t necessarily ironic: The writer-director-actor has a profound love for the flat expanses of the film’s southern Belgium and its gas stations, snack shops, and RV parks. Eldorado is a tale of two guys, fat and thin: Stroppy vintage-car dealer Yvan (Lanners, dressed like a Walloon Kevin Smith) comes home one night to find smack-scrawny Elie (Fabrice Adde) robbing him. Instead of calling the cops, Yvan becomes oddly protective of the pathetic felon and offers to drive him to his parents’ house near the French border. The voyage provides both lovely shots of low-country landscapes—which suggest not the starker palette of Dardenne Brothers’ territory, but magic-hour prairie heartland—and genuinely funny encounters with weirdos (a car-accident fetishist, a nudist named Alain Delon). When the traveling companions reveal their backstories, the monologues avoid mawkishness, further upending all low expectations of this frequently trite genre. In its final act, Lanners’s film is smart and confident enough to acknowledge that certain lives are dead ends, while others get tired of just spinning their wheels.