Director: Braden King
In Braden King’s road trip romance Here, the commercial director attempts to bring an authentic feel to a sporadic love story set amidst the picturesque landscapes of Armenia. Unfortunately there is a distinct sense of falseness throughout the film, making it somewhat of chore to trudge through. While themes of cartography as memory are pervasive and potentially interesting, the deeper emotions King attempts to elicit never come to fruition. The one saving grace is the fantastically surreal, and criminally underused in cinema, terrain of the amazing country of Armenia being used entirely for the first time in American production.
In fact, the topography is perhaps the most intriguing character in this otherwise banal tale. Going from mountains regions to hidden waterfalls to plains peppered with power lines, Armenia is certainly a magical and mysterious country. Discovering the constantly shifting differences in any foreign country side is a remarkable experience that naturally comes when you take a journey. There are some great moments of authenticity in the discovery of these new wondrous places. But what usually makes the road trip genre work as a formula is the audience’s connection to the characters and their relationship as the world around them changes. In Here, the road trip formula falls flat with poor character development, awkward chemistry between the actors and a lackadaisical script.
Ben Foster plays Will Shepard, a scruffy American satellite-mapping engineer working alone in the remote terrain of different spots in Armenia. One fateful day, he meets an expatriate photographer Gadarine Najarian, played coyly by Lubna Azabal, whose alluring sexuality slowly hypnotizes Shepard. The two voyage together, exploring tranquil and sometimes bewildering vistas, which is where the character of Armenia comes to life as the dominant driving force of the film. As the duo undergo an impulsive affair of emotions, Shepard starts to lose focus on his job, while questioning the lifestyle he has chosen. Meanwhile Gadarine is undergoing a a challenge of her personal traits by encountering old friends and questioning her own nationality.
There is a certain level of complexity between all the connections and conundrums the lovers are dealing with, yet there is never a sense of genuine emotion that feels compelling. This problem is accentuated by the dragging pace. Scenes slog on with little motivation, sometimes feeling like bad improv, made further harder to swallow by the lack of emotional chemistry between Foster and Azabal. Punctuated between each traveling vignette are a series of experimental style transitions that attempt to highlight deeper themes and metaphors, dreams and nightmares. But just because film flickers and reel ends look ‘cool’ (accompanied by pretentious gravelly voice over), doesn’t mean it will elevate the cinematic punch of an already lackluster road trip love story. While King’s heart may be in the right place, Here is a film that is mired down by an inflated sense of grandeur that it can’t live up to.
Here hits limited release on Friday, April 13th.
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