There’s a lot of world out there. It’s up to us to find our place in it.
Italian director Giorgina Farina explores the darker corners of that idea in her third feature-length effort, with varying degrees of success. There are a lot of paths to this sort of movie. Some are breezy (Eat, Pray, Love). Others are fantastical (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty). Farina’s effort feels closer to 2014′s Wild or Leaving Las Vegas. There’s not a lot of romance here, and though there is love, it’s a bit of a titular puzzler.
Allegra (Jasmine Trinca, The Gunman) is an Italian travel writer with a wall full of destinations forgotten or relegated to the past (the lost places) and a crippling case of anxiety. She’s keeping boyfriend Michele at arm’s length, using work as an excuse to hide her unique approach to her craft. She’s cut off from the life she wants to live—physically and emotionally.
Her neighbors are British expat Benno Best (Clive Owen, Children of Men) and his wife, Brigitte (Irène Jacob, Rouge). They’re in love, but Benno’s clearly on his way down, and we meet him as he’s hauling up a half-empty vodka bottle he’s hidden at the end of a rope dangling from his bedroom window. It’s morning. A single, long drink is our signal that Benno and the bottle of vodka have far too much in common, but in a nominal effort to make up for a drunken mishap, and really to escape rehab, Benno joins Allegra on her lost places tour. He’s tragically unreliable. As much as he might mean well, each kilometer of the trip is as bad for him as it is good for Allegra. She slowly finds herself with the journey. He’s hurtling in the opposite direction, his final destination increasingly evident.
Like Benno’s vodka, though, there’s ultimately not much to make him anything more than a vehicle for the movie to arrive at the real lost place: his thinly alluded-to childhood home. The morning we met him, Benno was trying to place a song his aunt had on a jukebox in her garden shed. It’s “Pretty Vacant” by the Sex Pistols and it’s Benno to a T: “There’s no point in asking/You’ll get no reply/Oh, just remember I don’t decide/ I got no reason, it’s all too much.”
For a film that asks much of its audience, it’s arguable they don’t get enough in return. Owen is good playing a character we’re not supposed to like very much, and there’s at least some depth to the little we see of Jacob as his wife. She knows what’s at stake for him. There’s a little more of a character arc for Allegra, but it feels disconnected from Benno. At the end of the journey—and the film—you kind of just want to get home.
+Owne’s bumbling Benno
-Allegra and Benno never seem to connect
Romantic Guide to Lost Places
Directed by Farina
With Owen, Trinca and Jacob
Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, NR, 106 min.