Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | May 21st, 2020
Take Me Somewhere Nice (Ena Sendijarevic, 2019) 4 out of 4 stars.
Alma is a Bosnian-born young woman, living in the Netherlands, whose father, long since back in his native land, is dying. And so, despite her mother’s misgivings (muttering “that bastard” all the while), she buys a new travel dress, packs a small suitcase and heads back to the country she has not seen since early childhood. There, she is met by her cousin, Emir, who at first proves less than helpful, refusing to take Alma from the city to the provincial hospital where her dad lies. His cute friend Denis is a little kinder, though he may have ulterior motives. And so begins Take Me Somewhere Nice, an intriguing, idiosyncratic drama from director Ena Sendijarevic (making her feature debut) who, like her protagonist, is Bosnian-born, living now in Holland.
Beyond the elliptical narrative, which emerges as a fascinating study of immigration and identity, what distinguishes the movie is its wholly engaging aesthetic, marked by delightful, off-center compositions (shot in a constrictive 4:3 aspect ratio) that make every moment, however mundane, hold us in rapt attention. The editing style is also key to the magical enigma of the plot, Sendijarevic moving the story forward in quick leaps and bounds, alternating with long passages of stillness, dynamism mixed with ennui in combustible alchemy.
The performances are also first-rate, led by Sara Luna Zoric as Alma, with Ernad Prnjavorac (Emir) and Lazar Dragojevic (Denis) lending excellent support. The characters rarely smile, at least at first, so depressing is the world they inhabit, devoid of opportunity. Though we see very little of Alma’s life with mom before she leaves, it hardly impresses with its opulence, yet Emir and Denis view her situation with envy. Why, then, does Alma return? Is it the same homesickness that draws some back to their place of origin, or at least leaves them with a lifelong sense of displacement? Or is there simply nothing better to do, her ostensible dream life in Holland nothing but an illusion of failed possibilities?
All these are questions each viewer must answer for themself, but the joys of this visually engrossing cinematic fable lie not in any facile solutions to complex problems, but in the experience of watching. Like a dystopian fairy tale playing out in reverse, Alma, Emir and Denis make their way towards their own kind of conclusive ending, where nothing may be resolved, but everything is considered. It may not necessarily be somewhere nice, but it’s certainly somewhere.
[Take Me Somewhere Nice is streaming on MUBI USA for the next month.]