Romantic Guide to Lost Lands
As Benno, TV anchorman and dishevelled alcoholic, Clive Owen wears a little stud earring, a jacket and a beige turtleneck. It suits him. Not a lot else does in this odd-couple road trip, a sort of ironic travelogue about two troubled souls headed for redemption. Through several brain-straining convolutions, Benno joins Allegra (Jasmine Trinca), a nominal writer with unspecified anxieties, on a journey from Italy across Europe. Their adventure often strays into grating whimsy and leans heavily on inexplicable plotting, cloaked in a perplexing dramatic determinism.
Giorgia Farina’s film is altogether an odd fit, equals parts soapy and cynical, sometimes didactic and sentimental. Its centre is Owen, playing the blokey Brit bumbling across a series of abandoned continental beauty spots. The floating Church of San Vittorino, the industrial Crespi d’Adda, French medieval castles, Stanford’s military zone: all are rendered in a style reminiscent of a Lonely Planet guide. It’s rare to see so many provincial budget hotels included in the credits.
The search for what has been lost provides the thematic overview, as shooting locations offer polka dot intervals throughout the narrative. Benno’s drinking and inability to speak Italian are doggedly depicted; even this doesn’t always escape cliché: gulp, gulp, gulp, “ah!”. Both Benno and Allegra have romantic partners (Irène Jacob and Andrea Carpenzano, respectively), whom they love and must let down. These are shown as saintly figures, merciful and eternally forgiving. Both major female characters are naked within the first ten minutes, which is supposed to double for domestic realism.
Presaged by a drunken tale about the life cycle of an eel, which functions as an unconcealed metaphor, Benno returns home to a small village in Norfolk. Ending on a note of nostalgia, Farina presents English pubs, William Morris wallpaper and the Sex Pistols as components of pathos and resolution, teasing the suggestion of consequences. Yet this resonance of ambiguity is swamped by what preceded it: perfunctory time captions, twee philosophising, half-hearted comedy and epistolary ironies, delivered insistently and without psychological purpose. Because nobody seems to really think or feel, it’s easier to notice the smaller things, like the glint of metal flickering from a lobe.
Romantic Guide to Lost Lands does not have a UK release date yet.
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