El Camino is a movie about memories. As a tv movie that continues the story of Jesse Pinkman after the events of Breaking Bad, it was hard not to be one. And the look with which it approaches that past, of course, is marked, tormented by the stylistic signature of the Vince Gilligan series. It is also him who writes and directs this last draft into Jesse's air.
Produced by Sony Pictures TV for Netflix (although it will also be aired on AMC, currently in the US), Gilligan's film is hopelessly hypnotized by the figure of Aaron Paul. The story jumps back and forth, showing the days before and after Felina (last episode of the series and end of Jesse's captivity) quite gracefully, without affecting the cameos too much or becoming a dish only to the fan's taste. There are apparitions, yes, but every time they tear the plot to enter it they fill the screen with new meanings, which enrich El Camino.
Better Call Saul did so, distancing from the mother series and turning the recycled characters into reformulated; and the tv movie follows in the footsteps. Its opening, with one of those guest stars, is not just a whim. Go back to see that wonderful first sequence by the river as soon as you finish the movie and you will see what we mean. Luckily, the El Camino team understood that they could not aspire to make this a last episode-epilogue, because it would not work. Netflix's is a tv movie, and is governed by other rules. Its elements, such as the beginning and the closing, resonate with each other on another frequency.
Although it may be a matter of budget and access to “better” cameras, it seems that they have also wanted to mark that distance with the television medium through the image format, rolling in an expansive 2.35: 1 that opposes the full screen of the original series and that forces to reposition the elements in the picture to get the already familiar “Breaking Bad planes”.
It maintains the visual and narrative identity of the series
The movie's identity remains intact, the visual and the narrative: the symbolic insects, the time-lapse and the impossible planes with lysergic color palettes, as well as the boring, uncomfortable and exaggeratedly masculine story. That's what we liked about the series, right? Its strong personality, in the heat of postmodern referentiality. Well here there plenty of material is to give and take.
That may also be the only thing that can be put on the tv movie: not having tried to break up with Gilligan's family of works. There are great a-lo-Breaking-Bad moments, it's true (the sequences on Todd's floor are a real festival); But virtually none of our expectations for Jesse's treatment has been met. That does not mean it is bad. In fact it's not.
The movie is infinitely less psychological than we could imagine. Jesse's traumatic past is represented more explicitly than profoundly; the scars we don't see, the internal ones, just receive minutes. And yet, it seems that the Vince Gilligan franchise has found its own language. El Camino turns out not to be Jesse's emotional journey, but the model name of the car in which he runs away; but there are small signs (attentive to the license plates, already relevant in the series) that speak to us from another place, from Breaking Bad's own codes. The white landscape engulfs, finally, the rotten yellow of the deserts of Albuquerque, and we know that Jesse has reached the end of the journey. No one says it and yet we understand it.