If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, it appears as though 2012 will be the year of the loner.
Be it the desolate landscapes that our hero finds himself in inside of The Grey, or the lack of contact within nature that our lead in The Hunter finds, this year has been chock full of isolated males trying to find some sort of connection. And now, it’s director Braden King’s turn at weaving his narrative of disconnection and the impact it has on a human being, in the form of his newly released film, Here.
Starring Ben Foster, the film follows a lonely cartographer named Will Shepard, who is attempting to give the world a new survey of Armenia, only to fall for an Armenian expatriate and photographer. A beautifully poetic look at love, longing, and the human act of longing for some sort of emotional connection, the film is equal parts beautifully blunt and bluntly beautiful. However, paired with interspersed experimental sequences, the film’s brain appears to be believed to be quite more inspired than it truly is.
The greatest aspect of the film also happens to be its biggest detriment; King himself. Directorially, the film is gorgeous. Featuring a seemingly frozen camera, the film evokes the sparse landscapes of films from Malick and filmmakers of his ilk, only to lack the emotional, intellectual or in Malick’s specific case, spiritual, depth which makes them the impactful pieces of cinema that they truly are. As emotionally cold and distant as the film’s visuals, King and co-writer Dani Valent’s screenplay offers up very little resembling anything moving or remotely affecting, giving the viewer nearly nothing to latch on.
Clocking in at right around two hours, Here‘s superior aspect is the two lead performances. Foster is again top notch here, giving a fine performance as Shepard, who from the opening frame, we realize is wholly isolated from the world. His opposite is played by Lubna Azabal, giving a revelatory turn here as Will Shepard’s equal both emotionally and intellectually. Their chemistry feels a bit odd, but it fits the type of narrative weaved here, and does occasionally give the film some sort of heartbeat, or something resembling that idea.
Whereas the two previously mentioned kin to this film are either visually arresting and action packed or ultimately emotionally rewarding, Here is oddly neither of those things. Cinematographer Lol Crawley does give the film a naturalistic look, but it’s also a roughly crafted film, an odd aesthetic feeling when used alongside such a still and unflinchingly dull camera. The Boxhead Ensemble hand over some original music to the film, which is neither evocative nor sonically intriguing enough to write home about. Feeling similar to a film like Gerry, Here lacks Van Sant’s inventiveness, instead offering up a monotonous and droningly over-long look into a man’s life somewhat off the grid.
Overall, Here is far from a bad film. Gorgeously composed and well acted, the film simply hums along without saying much, a damning criticism given the film’s attempt at something far deeper. The experimental sequences are a breath of fresh air within the constructs of this film, but they feel stilted and horribly misplaced. Coming from a far different, and much more interesting, film, these will leave the viewer wishing they were in the hands of that type of filmmaker. Sadly, we get something far more run-of-the-mill. Very sad indeed.