After Richard finds out that his best and only friend, a dwarf hamster named Etienne, has terminal cancer, he decides to take his pocket pet on a bicycle road trip to show him the world before he has to put him to sleep.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Richard Vallejos ...
Richard
Megan Taylor Harvey ...
Elodie
...
Man in Coat
Matt Garron ...
Matt
Rachel Stolte ...
Rachel
Solon Bixler ...
Solon
...
Herself
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Diane Alexander ...
Jogger
Tim Armstrong ...
60-Year-Old-Man
David Bou ...
Disgruntled Gentleman
Rinalda Caduff ...
One-eyed Woman
David Chien ...
Asian Dude in Underwear
...
Kenly
Kenley Gaffke ...
Hostel Clerk
...
Tara
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After Richard finds out that his best and only friend, a dwarf hamster named Etienne, has terminal cancer, he decides to take his pocket pet on a bicycle road trip to show him the world before he has to put him to sleep.

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a film about the little things in life

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Comedy

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3 September 2010 (USA)  »

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Fairly original, sweet and charming
30 October 2009 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

One of the more surprising highlights of the 2009 San Diego Asian Film Festival this year was Jeff Mizushima's Etienne! It stood out a lot on the film listing. For one thing, I did not know how it exactly related to the festival until I realized that the writer/director and many crew members of the production are Asian American.

It had been billed as a road trip movie about a man and his hamster – and that it was for kids. It sounded strange and a little funny, so I gave it a chance. And it is quite a strange movie but in all the right ways. It's fairly original, sweet and charming.

The movie follows Richard. He learns that his pet hamster, Etienne, is terminal with cancer. This propels them on a road trip (on a bicycle) where their paths intersect with a cornucopia of characters including: a pretty and solipsistic college girl, a scientist hitchhiker, a touring band, and an amateur photographer. It really is a road trip movie and there are a lot of great locations throughout Northern California depicted. In the end, I suppose the movie itself is very wrapped up in the idea of life, friendships, and happiness being very fragile and temporary and it was surprising that this was all addressed considering how light and absurd the opening scenes in San Francisco are (with a dull hotel job and a strange roommate being the focus of Richard's day-to-day). But none of it sounds pretentious because the characters are all so simple and genuine.

There are a lot of nice songs, it is almost wall-to-wall with music, but it's a good variety. The movie looks very retro and I think it has a lot to do with its 16mm film aesthetic (I think I recall hearing that it was shot on 16mm film; it definitely looks like it). And the acting is very amateurish but in a way that feels mostly authentic and appropriately awkward.

The director was in attendance along with his lead actor/friend, Richard Vallejos. It really seems to be a homegrown movie, as independent as an indie feature gets. I appreciated that the movie was short and succinct. I got a little disoriented at the halfway mark, when the narrative follows the Elodie character (solipsistic college girl), but that's kind of the point of the movie and it keeps things going. The heart of the movie is the subtle compassion that exists between Richard and Elodie when they finally meet and it works. I can think of no better way to describe it than the tagline on their poster and website: "A film about the little things in life."


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