Ever seen a film that is well-made, but you get the idea the filmmaker had no idea what he was doing? That is what Paolo Sorrentino’s almost-masterpiece This Must Be the Place is a perfect example of. I really wanted to like this film, but sadly it just had one too many flaws.
The central story is absolutely brilliant – Sorrentino brings the perfect amount of nostalgia and emotion to the story of Cheyenne looking for closure. On its own, concentrating on that plot and that plot alone, this could have been a real masterpiece. However, Sorrentino seemed to have the inclination to add all sorts of useless imagery and some subplots and ideas that he doesn’t resolve, or he tries to resolve using some convoluted storytelling, thinking we can deduce the meaning through just a single facial expression. The plot about Mary’s mother and her lost son is particularly useless – Sorrentino offered us no context, no insight as to the meaning of it and he could have easily wrapped it up nicely, but he just left it even more ambigious, and not in a cool cliffhanger type of ambiguity, just plain frustrating lack of closure.
On the positive side, this film had so many merits. I am not a huge fan of Sean Penn, but he turns in a great performance here. Sorrentino gives Penn so many moments of great emotion, and through every nuance and emotion expressed on Penn’s face, it is clear the director brough his Fellini influences to this film, as he retains the minimalistic approach to emotions and character development evident in European arthouse films. What Sorrentino lacks in coherent story telling he makes up for in writing some great moments for an actor to showcase his talents, and that is the redeeming factor of this film.
This Must Be The Place is a wonderfully sweet film that is sadly brought down by some mistakes Sorrentino makes throughout. It is a great film, and is an emotional journey that is really the work of a great master.