Don’t Read This on a Plane , directed by Stuart McBratney, an independent comedy-drama from 2020, an example of an emerging genre of movie (very popular on Netflix lately) of foreign films geared towards Americans. Although it takes place in Europe and stars French actress Sophie Desmarais, it is 90% in English. This is believable as Jovana is a writer doing a book tour across Europe, where English is the international language. Oddly enough, the segment that takes place in France did not have subtitles, at least not in the version on Amazon I watched.
This is a rather slight but enjoyable movie about an author whose book publisher goes bankrupt right before her book tour begins. Jovana is broke, married to an American (another convenient way to keep everything in English) who is working on a ship and cannot understand her pleas for help due to poor phone reception.
Jovana is forced to rough it by hitchhiking and sleeping on couches. She uses an app called MOAF (mattress on floor) that arranges free or low cost stays in people’s homes. This app may be fictional, but there was an actual site and app called Couchsurfing that really served this function (I’ve actually used it years ago, but the last I heard it is either defunct or hacked by scammers).
Jovana manages her extremely low budget travel as she moves through countries such as Italy, Portugal, Greece, Romania, and The Netherlands. Is all this realistic? Probably the least likely aspect of it all is the free publicity she gets when readers are actually thrown off planes when reading her book.
The title of the movie is also the title of her book. It’s a book of erotic stories recounting Jovana’s sexual encounters with women which may or may not be true. During book readings, audience members ask her if the stories are true and she responds with coy evasions.
The plot is very thin and meandering, which is often the case with road movies. Jovana meets various characters in different cities. She has an ongoing phone-based flirtation with a woman who is organizing her appearance in Romania. She has frustrating attempts to contact her husband.
If you like action and heavily plotted stories, you’ll find Don’t Read This on a Plane boring if not meaningless. I have a high tolerance for this kind of film, so I mostly enjoyed it. Sophie Desmarais is a likable and attractive lead who helps to carry the thin plot. Another upsides of the film is that it is shot on location, as the director describes in an interview with Filmink. Locations can add a great deal to the atmosphere. Low budget indie films are often claustrophobic due to limited settings and are often not even shot in the places where they are supposedly set.
The film also explores, in its lighthearted fashion, the relationship between fiction and reality and whether a writer is obligated to tell the truth (or if it even matters whether they do or not).
Don’t Read This on a Plane is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. You may also be able to find it for free on YouTube and elsewhere.