Ageing retired goth rock star Cheyenne (Sean Penn) sets out on an unusual journey across America to find the Nazi war criminal who prosecuted his father. See how the journey plays out in our review of This Must Be The Place after the jump.
Cheyenne is a happily married retired goth rocker who lives with his wife (Frances McDormand) luxuriously in the peaceful Irish countryside. There he lives a fairly slow-paced lifestyle, walking everywhere at glacial speed while wheeling his grocery caddy behind him. After 30 years of not travelling anywhere, Cheyenne is summoned to the USA to be with his dying father. Cheyenne (who is has been estranged from his father for many years) discovers that his father dedicated most of his life to trying to hunt down the Nazi war criminal Aloise Lange (Heinz Lieven), who he believes was his prosecutor at Auschwitz. Cheyenne decides to pick up where is father left off, and sets off on a journey across America to search for Aloise.
From here we follow Cheyenne on his somewhat baffling, often amusing, and sometimes heart-breaking journey. The characters he encounters along the way are rich and multi-layered, and each brings out something new or different in Cheyenne. As he goes deeper into his journey, the audience concurrently goes deeper into Cheyenne’s psyche and learns more about what makes him tick. A highlight of the film is Cheyenne’s encounter with Rachel (Kerry Condon) and her young son Tommy (Grant Goodman). Cheyenne is very much like a child and can relate to the awkward Tommy in a way that most adults probably can’t. The scenes between them are extremely touching and provide not only great character development, but also some of the funniest moments in the film.
This film is Cheyenne’s film, and it is the complexity and uniqueness of Cheyenne’s character on which the film’s success relies on. Thankfully, he is a fascinating character with very unique mannerisms and a personality like no other leading male character on film. His character has such little energy, and yet you can’t help but be completely captivated by him. His rock and roll lifestyle has obviously taken its toll, and consequently every movement he makes is laboured and purposeful. His words are softly spoken and few, but each one is important and well thought-out. Cheyenne does not waste a single word or step in the entire film. He obviously has a huge heart, but it is one that he keeps closely guarded. The film touches on issues and events in his past which have contributed to his inwardness, but for the most part this is left unexplored. However, it is the fact you know he has this huge heart that makes you get behind him 100%, and it’s very easy to become totally emotionally invested in his journey and it’s outcome.
The cinematography and the music are as much stars of this film as Sean Penn is. Firstly the music so vital to the emotional core of the film. The Talking Heads songs (one of which the title of the film comes from) are extremely catchy and very enjoyable to hear throughout the film. It’s amazing how much emotion and depth the music adds, and it is something that really sticks with you after the film. Try not humming the songs and imaging the scenes once you’ve seen it! It’s impossible!
The cinematography is simply beautiful, and much praise must be given to the Director of Photography, Luca Bigazzi. The landscapes are brutal and unforgiving, and he makes the most of them in every shot. There is some truly incredible photography in this film, and in particular there are several amazing tracking shots which will have you wondering how the heck he managed to get the camera there. The film also employs the use of many close-ups to show every single bit of emotion on the characters faces – it feels very intimate.
Overall, This Must Be The Place is an incredibly moving, charming, and interesting journey with one of the most unique characters you’re likely to ever meet. While the film is 118 minutes long, it is so well-paced that you really don’t feel it. If anything you wouldn’t mind if it went just a bit longer, so you could spend more time with the fascinating Cheyenne.
Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Writer(s): Umberto Contarello & Paolo Sorrentino
Starring: Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Eve Hewson
Runtime: 118 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: April 5th 2012; New Zealand & USA: date not set