Dir: Paolo Sorrentino
Starring; Sean Penn, Frances McDormand
118 mins, 15A, out now
Identity is complicated. Knowing who you are, figuring out how you got there, wondering who you’re meant to be. It’s the kind of thing that could drive a man crazy, thinking about it too much. So its not too surprising that a film attempting to tackle this, amongst a plethora of other seemingly random themes, could potentially be a tad dishevelled. Well it’s exactly what This Must Be The Place, the latest film from Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, attempts to do, and it’s a meandering disaster as a result.
Cheyenne (Sean Penn) is an aging rockstar irking out a humdrum royalty fuelled retirement in his vast country estate in Dublin. Upon hearing his estranged father in New York is terminally ill, he travels to reconcile with him, but instead ends up on a continent spanning road trip to find both his own misplaced identity, and his father’s one time Nazi persecutor.
This Must Be The Place is a film split sharply in two. The first act, set in Dublin, introduces enough characters, conflicts and relationships to fill an entire film of its own. These are all essentially ditched when Cheyenne hits the road, and the effect is distinctly unsettling. From here the film proceeds to introduce a smorgasbord of odd encounters and new faces, though none of these are ever developed, and exist solely to allow Penn’s character a moment of self-reflection. This constantly in flux cast of half characters are too busy monologuing or looking longingly into the distance to allow time for any meaningful plot developments, and the result is frustratingly tedious. It also means the only person the audience has any continuous interaction with is Cheyenne, an eccentric mope with a grating voice, who is far too introverted and aloof to ever grow attached to.
The film is rough to the point of amateurishness. The direction is solid, but the editing is slapdash, many scenes drag on for too long, and the sound can distinctly be heard peaking shrilly on a couple of occasions. Beyond the meandering nature of the script, the dialogue itself is weak, especially exposition, which is delivered like a ham-fisted afterthought.
Much like its protagonist, This Must Be The Place has a serious identity crisis. It brings on board too many characters, locations and themes, and doesn’t have the plot or time to make sense of them all. To make matters worse, the film seems to flaunt its philosophising tone as an excuse for this messiness. Don’t let the title fool you, if you find yourself in a screening of This Must Be The Place, you’re most likely lost.