Lexus “Three Journeys” Short Film Review: When Vehicle Promotion Takes the Spotlight
For automakers who want to promote their brand’s artistic image as much as its products, short films offer a creative avenue to achieve this beyond the short-form 60-second TV commercials. Over the years, many automotive brands have employed experienced filmmakers and up-and-coming artists to produce memorable short films–with varying success.
Nearly 15 years ago, Lexus produced a 15-minute short film entitled Three Journeys to promote its RX, GX, and LX models. The luxury brand roped in American film/TV director Michael Cuesta in the midst of his involvement with Six Feet Under.
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Three Journeys Revisited: Is a Promotional Video Considered Art?
Three Journeys follows the drives of three pairs of people who are riding in Lexus SUVs: a young husband and wife, an older husband and wife, and a father and son. Each of them have different reasons for their travel and are at different stages of their lives. At the end, they all reach their destinations and witness the mythical green flash of the setting sun (if you don’t know what that is, there’s a featurette on the DVD explaining it).
Upon its initial release, Three Journeys didn’t receive rave reviews as a feat of filmmaking or entertainment, and to this day it’s classified as a novelty piece for Lexus enthusiasts. That evaluation isn’t unjustifiable–the final product is too preoccupied with promoting its products than leaving a memorable emotional impact on its audience. Instead of using its “slice of life” vignettes to shed light into the role that vehicles play in our lives, it shows no personal growth and gives more screen time to the vehicles than the actors. Clearly the script was written to specifically promote features of the vehicles, such as steering wheel-mounted audio controls and voice-activated GPS.
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In the years following Three Journey‘s release, director Cuesta has seen success with shows like Dexter and Homeland. He’s proven himself to be a talented storyteller and had Lexus offered a better script that took risks and told an engaging story, the final product could’ve been much better. The cinematography by Paul A. Cameron (Gone in 60 Seconds, Déjà Vu, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales) is picturesque but mainly consists of obligatory promotional footage of vehicles travelling down seaside roads and fields.
Lexus enthusiasts will find reward in tracking down a copy of this promotional DVD, which features an interesting “automotive expert” commentary, featurettes on each of the three vehicles, and Lexus’ utility vehicle philosophy (as least what it was in 2003). For that purpose, Three Journeys might still interest some viewers and still deserves a place in fan collections.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.