On the Road Again

What’s surprising about The Short History of the Long Road are the niceties. Imperfect people, beholden to their values, but welcoming to a lonely child crossing the western US. Too many films cast strangers as villains and things to fear. Short History of the Long Road deals in pleasantries instead. How comforting for a film to find the good in a time so oppressively awful.

This quiet, meditative indie asks a lot of star Sabrina Carpenter. She begins longing to settle down after a life spent traveling with her father. She wants a TV, to watch a movie, to get a library card. Then tragedy, and she’s alone.

Short History of the Long Road deals in pleasantries

Short History of a Long Road is unorthodox in telling a coming of age story. Carpenter spends much of her screen time adrift, bouncing between jobs, what she wants, and the loyalties she finds. Nothing clicks. Emotions overwhelm her at times. Travels take Carpenter through various lifestyles, from skater kids to mechanics, and then good-natured religious folk. Everything calls to her. But, the only thing that fits her is a van.

It’s a movie always in motion. Carpenter can’t settle, so neither does the story, cut between gorgeous daytime scenery and sleepless nights. Normalcy is like a creeping disease. In a breaking point, Carpenter spends an evening in a fancy restaurant; that experience of typical society, the thing she once wished for, becomes a permanent off switch.

Scripting this story creates a compelling character in the center, decorated then by bit parts, including the ever great Danny Trejo as a mechanic. Partly, the design is such that an audience roots for Carpenter to find a place. After all, the road is dangerous, or so goes the thinking. Short History of the Long Road denies such a reality, giving Carpenter the west’s best. Any one of these people give her the needed stability.

After leaving another safe haven, Carpenter finds her home. It happens by chance, at a gas station, because she chose to follow a map rather than social norms. What she finds can’t be found sitting on a couch, in a movie theater, or behind a desk. For some, that’s not life. Short History of the Long Road speaks for them, providing an understanding as to why: Freedom. Real freedom. No one or no thing can convince Carpenter otherwise.


Plain digital video strikes a decent image. Cleanliness loses out to minor noise on occasion. The concerns happen around banding, far too prominent in darker scenes. Look at the walls as Carpenter lies in bed when squatting in a house. Blocking impedes, and it’s not easy on the eyes.

Reduced color suits the aesthetic and mood. Nice flesh tones cool a bit, but never too much as to lessen their saturation. A few primaries stick out on occasion, posing no challenge to a generally well done encode by MVD.

In close, sharp detail picks up fine textures. Likewise, location footage celebrates the west’s scenery, beautifully resolved. Deserts and cities alike, sharpness brings out the best qualities.


As a dialog-driven drama, the DTS-HD 5.1 mix only brings small energy overall, focused primarily on ambiance. Diners and open air scenes whip up little sonic splashes. A car shop stretches outward a bit too.

Music accompaniment asks for low-end support. Range doesn’t explode, but provides needed density. A key dramatic moment early sustains a thick, deep pounding effect, a solid rumble in a movie with few chances to dig in.


A fun blooper reel, followed up with trailers and a photo gallery.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Short History of the Long Road
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Always on the move, Short History of the Long Road sports a perfect title as it follows a young woman looking for her identity.

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