Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) is a Hollywood actor who lives the hard life – women and alcohol on tap, long hours, constant publicity, luxury hotels. But he is profoundly lonely and his life is a meaningless circularity. This frenetic lifestyle keeps the depression and boredom just at bay. The opening scene is symbolic of Johnny’s life. We see a dirt track with Johnny driving his sports car around and around for maybe five minutes. When he finally stops and steps out of the car, he stands with no sense of purpose.
Then he receives a call from his wife who is leaving and sending their 11 year old daughter, Cleo (Elle Fanning), for him to care for her until Cleo attends an upcoming vacation camp. We then observe father and daughter as their relationship slowly deepens and, as a result, Johnny begins to revitalise his connection to real life.
Sofia Coppola has directed Somewhere with absolutely precise pacing. The film, on one level, is boring as it mirrors the deep boredom and pointlessness of Johnny’s life. Perhaps the first third of the film is a repetitive “documentation” of monotonous ordinariness. By the time Cleo, his daughter, arrives we are desperate for something interesting to happen. And Coppola makes a decision that means this movie transcends the typical sensationalism of the “Hollywood” movie – we have more ordinary life as father and daughter get to know each other as they do ordinary things together – go swimming, eat gelati, go to ice skating class, and talk.
As we watch this story unfold, it is rivetingly mundane and yet shot through with a message that the most important things in life are about relationships. Johnny is forced to confront the reality of his unreal life as a celebrity and he begins to discover a sense of purpose and meaning in his relationship with his daughter. This is the message of the movie – we are built for deep relationships which occur in the ordinariness of everyday life. Without relationship there would be nothing but frenzied despair.
Relationships bring us to crossroads in life and we are forced to choose a life of meaning or a life of meaningless based on how we respond to the relationships that are available to us. Johnny is forced to confront this decision. What and how will he choose?
Somewhere will not be a movie for everyone. It is an hour-and-a-half of tedium that seems interminable. But after persevering with it Somewhere’s message haunts us as we are confronted with our own lives of ordinariness and how and where we find meaning in them.
Somewhere opens in Australia on December 26 and is in limited release in the US on December 22.
‘It may not have Lost In Translation's reach, but it's original and smartly funny with top performances.’ – Ian Free/Empire
‘Somewhere has a lot of good impulses, and a salutary faith in an audience's patience; but the film's tone, in its script, performances and visual style, is studiously uninflected. It's a document of people seen remotely, maybe from outer space.’ – Richard Corliss/Time
sexual content, nudity and language