Here And There

Here And There


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Late-blooming romance has a special quality, more delicate than the flush of first love and trickier to negotiate successfully, as longing is tempered by an understanding that lust and love are two very different things. But older, particularly cross-cultural, romance is all the rage, from The Visitor to La Graine Et Le Mulet, and this latest offering from Darko Lungolov. It seems the last taste of sweets is sweetest last.

Washed-up saxophonist Robert, of course, would laugh at all that. He isn't the sort of man to waste time on such niceties. Middle-aged, mangy and about to be kicked out of his home, he hasn't so much let himself go as flung himself through the hedge of life backwards. With the patience of his few remaining friends wearing thin, a chance encounter with a young immigrant, Branko, provides an opportunity that seems too good to be true.

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Branko is fresh off the plane from Serbia and - in one of the film's lovely parallels - as full of love's young dream as Robert is steeped in cynicism. All the younger man wants is to get on with living the American dream with his Serbian sweetheart Ivana - which is where Robert comes in. Branko promises him 5000 bucks if he'll hop on a plane back to Serbia and marry the girl so she can get a green card. Being broke and homeless, and therefore in no position to negotiate, Robert grudgingly agrees and finds himself staying at Branko's divorcee mum's place in the run-up to the 'big fake day'. But when events conspire to keep Robert in Serbia, it seems love can blossom in unlikely places.

On arrival, Robert is greeted by Ivana's comically anti-American brother: "Welcome to Serbia - country in transition." And transition lies at the heart of Lungolov's film. The transition from friendship to love, from distrust to respect from hope to despair and back again and how quick each of those transitions can be. Although teetering on the brink of soppiness in places, and treading a well-worn path, the soft in the middle script is lifted immeasurably by towering performances from David Thornton as Robert and Mirjana Karanovic as Olga (proving beyond doubt that her emotional performance in Das Fraulein (2006) was no one-off).

The film's 90-minute runtime is nimble, and although the script is not quite so successful when it comes to fleshing out the subsidiary characters Stateside, those in Serbia leave a lasting impression. It's true that some of the facts need to be taken with a pinch of salt - having fought my way through the US red tape just to get a visiting journalist's visa I can confirm this film takes liberties on that score - but the backdrop and attitudes in both countries feel realistic. Here And There won the Tribeca Film Festival's 2009 award for best New York Narrative, if it gets a distributor, it's likely to win a lot of fans at the box office, too.

Reviewed on: 12 May 2009
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A miserable musician finds love comes lately after he heads to Serbia for a marriage of convenience.

Director: Darko Lungulov

Writer: Darko Lungulov

Starring: David Thornton, Mirjana Karanovic, Cyndi Lauper, Branislav Trifunovic, Jelena Mrdja, Antone Pagan, Max King, Fredda Lomsky, Eliezer Meyer, Goran Radakovic

Year: 2009

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: Serbia, US, Germany


Tribeca 2009

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