Directed by Braden King
A sensuous road-trip romance that trails elusive ideas at a low gear, Braden King's Here feels like it could've come from several decades back, were it not for the up-to-date concerns with placeness and representation. The current cinema's greatest hair-trigger temper, Ben Foster, explores more internal territory as Will Shepard, a NorCal cartographer undertaking a new survey of Armenia. The character's appearance in the field speaks volumes about the myths of rugged individualism he subscribes to: full beard, solid-colored baseball cap, carefully packed gear in tow. Back at his hotel, poring over his maps before the day's work, he meets Gadarine (Incendies' Lubna Azabal), a photographer returning home to Armenia after years spent abroad. The mutual attraction is immediate (a sense the actors make palpable), and immediately acted upon: The two pile into Will's roof-racked SUV and drive out toward disputed border territory, Gadarine taking Polaroids in and around the spots where Will collects his "ground truth" data.
As plotted out, the principals' backgrounds—vast differences in their upbringings and the working methods they've developed—suggest a foredoomed romance, but Here documents the pair's dynamic as it evolves off the grid. At a tucked-away swimming hole, Will confesses his explorer interest all started with such hidden places; Gadarine, wary of what Will's project might mean for her home country, tries to convince him to leave it off the map. Gradually, Will seems to lose his hold on the objective task at hand—questions later arise about the accuracy of his satellite data.
The widescreen surveys of the Armenian landscape by Ballast DP Lol Crawley nicely stake out a middle ground between Will's georectified plotting and Gadarine's fleeting-moment stills, though King doesn't stick exclusively to that point of view. Here contains a number of avant-garde-ish interludes (including at the movie's opening and closing) during which VO pro Peter Coyote reads senior-year-indulgent glosses on the film's themes. These passages constitute yet another "map" of the outlands Will and Gadarine pass through, but have the unfortunate consequence of cranking up the volume on the film's otherwise unaffected headiness. Interesting, anyway, to see a road movie that plays so many views of the terrain off each other.
Opens April 13 at IFC Center