Friday, January 7, 2011


Somewhere is a fairly restrained, if not exactly subtle, study of a man who - by personal temperament and because of impersonal structures - is pathologically incapable of forming relationships. Much of the film is given over to showing us the professional cocoon that surrounds Johnny and the personal routines he's built. The former's ever present, ever sycophantic but never personal presence is largely anonymous even when it is present in person. The latter's stultifying sameness and its lack of fulfilment is conveyed largely through visual metaphor: the endless parade of identical hotel rooms and buxom blonds, the car that races around and around and around.

This visual language remains consistent with the narrative of the film right up until the final shot. For example the stylish suite that breaks up the monotony of endless hotel rooms serves both its metaphoric function; the monotony of his routine having been broken by Cleo, and its plot function; a place for them to stay while they're in Italy. However this harmony breaks down at the end. While the final shot provides a neat counterpart to the opening one - instead of driving around and around he's leaving the safety of his cocoon and walking somewhere with purpose - it makes zero sense on a story level. He's decided his life is hollow but has been utterly at a loss as to how to fix it. The last shot suggests he's found a sense of direction but the narrative is at a complete loss as to what it might be. It's a cheat that somewhat sours the rest of the film's modest achievements

On the positive side it is at least as not relentlessly editorialising or as nakedly ideological as its spiritual partner Up in the Air. Unlike Ryan, Johnny lacks self awareness. As such he doesn't feel the need to develop a coherent philosophy to explain himself to others. This results in a film that feels less concerned with argument and debate and more concerned with the emotions of its protagonists. It's the difference between someone who decided that there is a trend of depersonalisation in modern society which needs to be exposed through popular entertainment and someone making a picture about a person in trouble.

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