This Must Be the Place
Ultimately a movie about finding oneself, This Must Be the Place tells the story of Cheyenne (Sean Penn), a former rock star now living off his royalties with his wife Jane (Frances McDormand) in Dublin.
Mascara clad and in black attire, rocking a hairstyle similar to Edward Scissorhands, Cheyenne now 50 years old is living a very surreal existence. However, Cheyenne’s quirky, Gothic presence is endearingly beautiful and right from the start; the portrayal of interactions in the film is both authentic and captivating.
The two dominant relationships take place between Cheyenne and his wife Jane, and Cheyenne and his best-friend Mary – Bono’s daughter, Eve Hewson. Jane is wonderfully grounded and her love for her ex-rocker husband is very touching, as is Cheyenne’s attempts to assist his young friend Mary’s love-life. There are darker elements to the film, such as when Cheyenne and Mary visit the graves of fallen fans, something which is later explained in dreamlike reunion between old friends Cheyenne and David Byrne of Talking Heads.
The rest of the film is kept slightly lighter. Even when Cheyenne’s estranged father passes away and we join the former rock star on a journey from Ireland to New York. However, what starts out to be a simple family gathering soon takes a sharp turn when not only do we learn that Cheyenne is Jewish, but that he is also required to complete his father’s final mission to track down the Nazi responsible for a humiliation he suffered during time as a prisoner in Auschwitz.
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino (his first English-language feature), This Must Be the Place is a wonderfully charming adventure. For those not familiar with art-house productions, This Must Be the Place will appear overtly eccentric and whacky. Sorrentino plays with this, and produces some great moments, such as Cheyenne thinking out loud with “Why is Lady Gaga?…”
The high-colour saturation of the film really helps to juxtapose the monochrome-looking Cheyenne, with the rest of life. But although as a character Cheyenne significantly stands out from everybody he meets, there is at no point one tiniest drop of intimidation emulating from him. In fact the emphasis on his relationships with people reflects his endeavours to help people.
This Must Be the Place is mesmerising. Sean Penn has stepped into this role quite unlike any he has played before, and it has worked. Approaching potentially sensitive subject material in the way Sorrentino has, and Penn bringing a sense of humour so consistently gentle that it warms the cockles, are the ingredients to the success of this film, tainted only momentarily by the conclusion to Cheyenne’s revenge in the name of his father. Overall, this is a real sensation.
This Must Be the Place is released in selected cinemas on 6th April 2012.
Watch the trailer for This Must Be the Place here: