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Rick McGrath [Celluloid 07.26.09] movie review drama

Year: 2008
Directors: Olivier Boonjing
Writers: Olivier Boonjing
Trailer: link
Review by: Dr. Nathan
Rating: 8 out of 10

It’s not often one ponders the space between here and now, but in this fascinating film it seems to be: the Here is Brussels, home to the action, and the Now is how the Here is perceived by a group of young and emotionally distraught travelers. Put another way, Somewhere Between Here And Now (SBHN) is a desperately empty place, full of solitary histories, no futures and bulging backpacks. Lonely Planet, indeed.

Our story involves the chance meetings experienced by Louise (Lucie Debay) on her first day back in Brussels after returning from a year-long impulse trip to Asia. What plot there is awkwardly twists around her unwanted relationship with the confused Adrian (Arieh Worthalter), a broken-hearted boy on his way out of town who relentlessly chases Louise until they unexpectedly come across his old flame, Zoe (Anaël Snoek). While this may appear to be the old love triangle story redressed with backpacks, there’s less to this trippy trio than what meets the eye. Zoe is basically a catalyst who sets up the movie’s finale, and the main action revolves around the ying/yang of Louise and Adrian, one returning, one going, and both seemingly locked in or out of the here and now, unable to truly return or leave and weaving around each other in a unplanned dance of procrastination.

Granted, not a scintillating outline of heavy action, but this is one of those auteur efforts that represents the vision of one clever guy – Olivier Boonjing – who wrote, directed, produced, shot and edited the movie. The plot, such as it is, really just leads the characters to a little mind-making-up rap session, and there’s nothing really special about the dialogue – these kids are too screwed up to wax eloquently – save one great scene when they’re picked up by a retired cabby who still likes to drive around at night, pick up hitchhikers and give tourist raps about the local sights and restaurants. He’s cool. No, Boonjing’s best claim to fame in this here and now is the brilliant cinematography. From the opening montage of verité Asian scenes to the formal architectural symmetries of Brussels, Boonjing offers up a dazzling array of visual delights – both by day and night – as he effortlessly tracks the obsessive movements of his young and restless characters in their vain searches for themselves.

SBHN is well cast, with the camera loving the sensual face of Lucie Debay, and Arieh Worthalter plays a very convincing loser, torn between the anonymity of the road and his attraction to this unstable blonde with the big packsack. His hormonal pursuit is a laugh, as is his unexpected meeting with Zoe, the old flame who left him a year earlier, coolly played by Anaël Snoek. All three manage that tongue-twisted conversation only those with zero self-confidence can manage, and though they try very hard to make emotional connections with each other, they’re also just slightly too far over some edge to allow anyone to get upclose and personal. As a result we tend to watch these characters as if they were part of some psychological experiment, wondering if they’ll ever escape the maze and gain some kind of self-understanding about their escapist motivations.

The ubiquitous icon that should also share star billing is the gigantic packsacks lugged around by Louise and Adrian. Like beasts of burden they walk the streets, bent over by these turtle shells of road possessions, or, more likely, by their crushing senses of guilt and shame over their impulsive, irrational need to go… anywhere. Only once are they separated from these symbols of false freedom, and during this dope and booze fueled confession session they finally exchange emotion for philosophy, wishes for reality. They seem to wake up to themselves, and the ties that so feebly bound them slip away like sleep. Only now can they can finally disassociate from each other to resume their individual journeys -- like all lonely backpackers on the long road to oblivion.

The Dr. has given SBHN a fairly generous 8/10, as I’m mentally glossing over the slightly-too-many unnecessary scenes that tend to bog our going nowhere cast down to a sticky crawl. Some of these scenes are cute, sure, and the Dr will applaud any scene which includes the luscious Lucie Debay, but ultimately these extraneous bits are not that relevant to either the action or the message. What the Dr is remembering is Boonjing’s excellent camerawork, sharp direction and crisp, flowing editing. You may also appreciate the learn-as-you-go story, as our characters all spring out of nothingness and we slowly learn about them and their situations as the story, which happens all in a day or two, unfolds.

Somewhere Between Here And Now. Cool name, and a cool flick. Here has been around for a long time. Now’s the moment. Boonjing shows us that “somewhere between” is a mindscape that maps out your motivations. If you get the chance, take this journey.

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Olivier Boonjing (6 years ago) Reply

The complete movie is available here for free:

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