Film Review: In Transit is beautiful and intimate

The uncertainty of life’s journey or the purpose of which we live compels us to reflect upon our collective consciousness, the fears of which hold us, the hopes and dreams of which propel us, and the opportunities of which free us.

In Transit, one of legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles’ last completed films, beautifully captures this notion through the documentation of the thoughts and feelings of passengers travelling on Amtrak’s ‘Empire Builder’ a long distance train travelling across America.

Through the intimate nature of handheld direct to camera interviews we observe the everyday musings of passengers entwined with scenes of ordinary everyday rituals set to pass the time on their journey towards their destination.

The archival nature of documentary wonderfully captures moments of nearly forgotten time documenting the thoughts of ordinary everyday people and bringing them to light.

Scattered throughout are handheld interviews, tracking shots of landscape, snippets of sounds and clips of changing signal lights taken from an multitude of trips filmed and edited by Albert Maysles, Lynn True, David Usui, Nelson Walker III, and Benjamin Wu. Footage is arranged rhythmically beautifully capturing the collective human spirit and allowing viewers to meditate on the words spoken by the passengers on board.

Perhaps a compendium to the much familial commute we all share, audiences witness a cross section of American society and the changing faces of which represent it. Brutally open and honest, passengers share stories of migration, alcohol addiction, spousal abuse and their anxieties towards relationships providing a cross section of culture that translates far beyond American cinema and culture.

In Transit is a film which documents the ordinary in a way that is both beautiful and intimate. It’s an inviting watch containing a simple premise carried by the simplicity of a train journey which speaks beyond time and place addressing our own humanity, a story of which we can all understand.

In Transit is currently playing at the “Essential Independents: American Cinema, Now” festival, taking place in the following cities:

Tuesday 17 May to Wednesday 1 June – Sydney
Wednesday 18 May to Wednesday 1 June – Melbourne
Thursday 19 May to Wednesday 1 June – Brisbane and Canberra
Thursday 26 May to Wednesday 8 June – Adelaide

See the full programme and find out more here:



Review by Addy Fong.