A Robert Smith-esque Sean Penn hunts down his father’s concentration camp inquisitor. David Bryne, a Native American and a buffalo all offer him guidance on his Odyssey and this is just half of the craziness contained in This Must Be the Place.
Craziness is the word, now it’s not David Lynch crazy so let’s all calm down a bit, but there is many a scene that doesn’t make sense and it feels like they are reading a book called “Indie Arthouse for Beginners” (I’m copyrighting this title, hopefully it’ll be in all good shops by Christmas). The scene that most describes this is where Penn, sitting inebriated on a couch rises to take in the view outside only to be confronted by a buffalo. None of this takes that much away from the film or the story but one wonders if it is really warranted?
Sean Penn plays Cheyenne, a once famous rock star who now spends his time in seclusion in a country estate in Ireland. He hangs out with the younger sister of one of his band mates (not in a creepy way) who has recently disappeared. Married to Jane (Frances Mc Dormand), she tries to keep him sane and motivated and however bizarre the relationship seems, it’s totally believable and the warmth and love between them really comes across. The performance of Penn is pretty astounding, initially it takes a while to warm to him or even take him seriously, especially with the accent he chooses to purvey. The frailty that comes through is touching and the outbursts sprinkling the film make them resonate all the more.
The film really changes direction when he learns of his father’s death and the fact that he’d dedicated most of his life to finding the man that humiliated him when he was a prisoner in a concentration camp. Penn takes over the torch and subtly goes about trying to hunt him down. This involves Judd Hirsch (Taxi, Independence Day) who puts in a stellar performance as the man who knows everything and everybody. Mention must also be given to Eve Hewson who plays the goth Cheyenne hangs out with and her mother Olwen Fouere (the best thing in The Other Side of Sleep) who spends the entire film chain smoking and looking out the window for the return of her son.
There isn’t too much more I want to say as it would take from the film however I will add this, it is over-flowing with heart and emotion, I defy anyone to hate this. The film raises so many questions about father-son relationships, conventional notions of love and the theme of revenge is examined from many different angles. Also, if you don’t beam with joy or shed a tear during Gary Goodman’s rendition of “This Must Be the Place” you have no soul and probably don’t believe in fairies either. For shame.
An unconventional look at love and relationships in all their many facets and with the drought of good movies at present, it’s well worth your time.
Italy, France, Ireland / Directed By: Paolo Sorrentino / Written By: Umberto Contarello, Paolo Sorrentino / Starring: Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Harry Dean Stanton, David Byrne, Kerry Condon, Simon Delaney / 118min / Drama, Comedy / Release: 23 March 2012 (Irl), 6 April 2012 (UK)