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What Remains On The Way (2021)

What Remains On The Way (2021)

An observational documentary spotlighting the courage and resilience of marginalized migrants



Brazil, Germany
93 min


Like its cinematography, What Remains on the Way finds beauty in unexpected places.

What it's about

A documentary following single mother Lilian and her four children as they flee an abusive home in Guatemala and set out for the US-Mexico border.

The take

Over 100 hours of footage were shot for this documentary chronicling the fraught journey that thousands make to reach the US-Mexico border — but, watching the 93 minutes that made the cut, you get a sense that this is the story that was meant to be told. Editor Sofia Machado whittled down reams of footage into this gently conveyed single account of one woman’s journey. Twenty-nine at the time of filming, Lilian and her four children fled a violent husband and bleak prospects in Guatemala, setting out as part of a migrants’ caravan undertaking the 4000km-long journey separating them from the brighter future they hope is waiting for them in the US.

She meets exploitation, xenophobia, and other perils on the route (not least The Beast, the dangerous freight train she and her kids must hop to reach safety). Remarkably, though, there’s much solidarity and generosity to be found on the way, too, as Lilian and her kids forge moving family-like bonds with fellow migrants. What’s more, as the documentary unfolds, quiet revelations emerge, making it clear that Lilian is also looking for a type of liberation that many on the road already have — a dream that this documentary suggests might blessedly be closer than she originally envisioned.

What stands out

The filmmaking here is of a purely observational style; there are no interruptions from behind the camera. What we learn about Lilian all comes by way of her own telling, then, whether through the parts of her story she shares with other marginalized migrants or through her actions. It’s clear from the way she cares for her children, for example, that she’s a loving and affectionate mother, a deeply comforting presence in their lives that probably accounts for why they seem so remarkably unperturbed by their sudden uprooting. That, along with the two secrets she divulges partway through the film, gives you a profoundly moving appreciation of her strength and courageous will to fight for a better future — both for her kids and for herself.


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