Cert 15 / Region B / Running Time 111
Cheyenne (Sean Penn) is a former rock star who still dresses like a Goth. Now 50, he spends his days sitting, walking around shopping centres and talking with young friend Mary. Living off his royalties he rattles around his grand Dublin mansion until the death of his estranged father calls him to New York. Reunited with his family, Cheyenne discovers a secret, that his father a holocaust survivor spent his life trying to find his Nazi persecutor. Cheyenne is left a book with all of his father’s research into finding the man and takes a journey that sends him across America, through the Midwest and through a series of surreal encounters in search of his father’s life long obsession
This Must Be The Place is a bit of an oddball. It takes a fair while to get going and many of the pieces of the puzzle take their time to align but when they do there’s something tender and quite sweet about this slow paced movie. Sean Penn’s performance is one that will probably only sit right with about 50% of the audience. It’s a brave move by the reliable actor and his slow moving, mumbling, soft spoken oddness has moments that barely even feels like he’s trying but there’s a real charm to it. This mild mannered, obviously quite broken aging rock star has hidden himself away for years. His wife Jane (played pitch perfectly by France McDormand) loves and supports him, he has a small circle of friends but Cheyenne’s past demons are haunting him and the steps he takes to see out his father’s life long obsession feels like a natural progression due to the controlled central performance.
The opening scenes in Dublin initially make the film feel uneven somehow and it takes a while for the film’s tone to sit right but as soon as Cheyenne gets to America all of the set up that came before it begins to take shape into something quite touching. Cheyenne is a character that it was good to find out more about, either through meeting new people or a touching conversation with old friend David Byrne (played by David Byrne by the way). The character’s sadness is there to see throughout and as he travels across the country we slowly begin to see him come out of his shell.
The ultimate discovery at the end of Cheyenne’s quest is handled very well and by this point I was emotionally invested in how far this character had come. Small nuggets of wisdom come out of his soft spoken lipstick covered mouth and they held quite a dramatic punch given the circumstances. This Must Be The Place grew into something quite charming and ended up being a tender almost delicate approach to what is essentially a revenge drama. To its benefit the film takes odd steps to get where it needs to go, sure some of the steps take a little while to work out or feel slightly strange but when those steps come together as well as they do here, it’s hard not to form a little bit of love for this movie.
Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 / Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, / Subtitles: English
This Must Be The Place provides a largely warm, sunlit great looking HD presentation. There’s a great use of strong blacks, largely in the use of shadow but also in Penn’s entire costume. There’s a slight lack of sharp detail but the bright warm colours really do make up for it. Gardens and landscapes come with various levels of green, interiors are loaded with warm lighting and given the thin layer of filmic grain, the movie has quite a pretty look to it.
Details and textures within elements like wrinkled faces are all very strong. You can see the layers of make up on Penn’s face, or see every notch of stubble on other characters chins. The journey across America also comes with plenty of visual delights and given the naturally lit exteriors of a lot of the movie, there’s a lot for a strong HD presentation to take advantage of.
As for the audio, the soundtrack is immediately great here. It’s a great mixture of songs and all are presented very well within the mix. Strong acoustic guitars, clear crisp vocals, it’s all used wonderfully within the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. As for the film itself, dialogue is always strong, well other than the intentional mumbles of Penn, which can often feel very low within the mix but this is obviously a choice made by the director and totally forgiveable. There are some fine atmospheric sounds, such as a rubber ball bouncing around the speakers during a squash game, a strong bassy thunderstorm and generally ambience plays in the rear speakers most of the movie. It’s a mix that fits the movie perfectly, it has it’s quiet moments but when that soundtrack kicks in it really shines.
As for the extras on offer, the disc features two version of the film, the UK Theatrical cut and the original Cannes 2011 Cut, there’s also an option to watch a version that highlights the differences between the two cuts. There’s also a gallery of interviews (with a total lack of Sean Penn), seven deleted scenes, some viral clips and an extended David Byrne Music sequence.
This Must Be The Place is a movie I’ve wanted to see for quite some time (well since the pictures of Penn in costume started turning up anyway). I didn’t really know what to expect as the film got mixed reviews along the way but I have to say I have a lot of affection for this movie. I generally enjoy a strong story about a person breaking free of the chains that are stopping them living their lives and This Must Be The Place, with its slow but well structured pace really delivered the goods with a central performance by Penn that really won me over.
The disc is a bright and colourful HD presentation, despite the aging Goth at the centre of it and the audio track also brings the goods. As for the extras, there’s a lot here to like but it’s missing a closer look at the making of the film in my opinion and a real lack of Sean Penn.
This Must Be The Place is released in the UK on the 13th August 2012.