This Must Be The Place (2012)
From the opening shot of a Labrador wearing a cone, standing in the gardens of a vast country pile, you could tell the cinematography and its sense of humour was going to be spot on. Soon after we are truly treated to an aging, retired rock star in full make up and coiffured hair, milling about a shopping centre and browsing for frozen pizzas in Tesco. So the set up is complete. Out of sorts and decidedly quirky both in style and tone, 'This Must Be The Place' is a treat for actual movie lovers everywhere. The attention to detail is startling and the Director and Writer, Paolo Sorrentino, has an astute and original, refreshing eye.
At a couple of hours in length, it doesn't exactly hurry about its business, potentially leaving the audience wondering exactly when it is going to really get started. Much is made of the relationships between the characters that will matter for the last two acts of the film and this is sometimes pedestrian, though never dull, due to Sorrentino's beautiful framing of absolutely every scene.
The story itself is not a complicated one. A retired American rock star, bored, listless and living a sedentary lifestyle in Ireland with his wife (McDormand) gets the news that his father is at death's door in New York. So he travels to New York but arrives just too late. It transpires that his father, a Jew that suffered at the hands of the Nazi's, was trying to track down the war criminal that persecuted him. Now it is Cheyenne's (Penn) job to finish what his father started, though exactly why he is not sure. At least, no more sure than what he will do when, and if, he finds him. On his travels, he meets a host of characters, some inspiring some not, but all well-realised and rounded given what little time we are afforded with their stories.
Sean Penn's performance as Cheyenne at times gave me chills. Not all the time, to be sure, but often enough to appreciate the presence of a truly great actor. Cheyenne is an extremely complex character and Penn does the best he can with him, which is considerable, but this is as much about how this looks and feels to the audience as it is about Penn himself. With music (and a cameo) from David Byrne that compliments the tone of the film brilliantly, we are led on an always highly original journey for Cheyenne both in miles and in spirit. Altogether, a beautifully concocted study into loss, guilt and redemption that most viewers will not have seen the likes of before. Recommended for those over fifteen, but not really suitable for younger, given the occasionally ripe verbal dialogue.