56th BFI London Film Festival Review – Here and There (2012)

Here and There (Aquí y allá), 2012.

Written and Directed by Antonio Mendez Esparza.
Starring Pedro De los Santos, Teresa Ramírez Aguirre, Heidi Laura Solano Espinoza, Néstor Tepetate Medina, Noel Payno Vendíz, Carolina Prado Ángel, Nicolás Parra Quiroz and Lorena Guadalupe Pantaleón Vázquez.

SYNOPSIS:

A man travels back to his home in Mexico after working in the US. He finds his daughters have grown distant, but finds happiness with his wife and a prospective band.

So, there I am, sprinting headlong into the crowd of five people that seem to inhabit my hometown’s town centre. Dodging, ducking, dipping, diving and finally dodging again, I reach the bridge. I run across, Hans Zimmer blaring into my ears, every little detail suddenly becoming important and epic. I run down the stairs, the Rocky theme playing heroically. In between those I change the tracks, in order to create the right mood. I get to the train station, I ask for my ticket and wouldn’t you know it? I was twenty minutes late for my train.

SMASH CUT to me in the screening, two minutes late. Very unprofessional, very idiotic and, more significantly, very annoying. I sit down, making a mental note not to take my jumper off for at least twenty minutes, otherwise I’m the guy who came in late AND had the gall to stand around removing layers.

While dealing with the embarrassment of being two minutes late (I’m English, so getting over that faux pas takes roughly half an hour), I concentrate on the film playing in front of me and not the guy’s foot I didn’t break by stepping on it – oh my God I probably broke his foot as well and what’s worse is I didn’t apologise enough times or profusely enough, but if I did then my apology would have been too loud but it’s okay because there were other late people so it’s okay if other people do it.

Right, now that’s over we can talk about the movie. I was just doing that for three paragraphs to build and maintain a certain mood. Didn’t work, did it? Thought not. Went on far too long and didn’t have anything significant to add to anything. And that brings me to Here and There.

Instead of explosions, CGI and epic epicness that is epic, low budget movies rely on more down to earth elements. Here and There tries to build an atmosphere and a mood. But throughout, all I could think was that atmosphere and mood aren’t built by just leaving the camera rolling after the actors have done their lines. Long lingering shots, that long overstayed their welcome, were a prominent element of this movie.

A movie must be entertaining to reach a large audience, obviously. When it comes down to it, watching someone doing anything for extended periods of time (insert joke about The Ryder Cup) gets boring. Here and There does this well in principle. Our protagonist comes home after a long period in a foreign country to find his daughters have changed and that he must reintegrate himself within his own home life with his wife and friends. Everyone’s equilibrium has forcefully changed. It makes for great drama, yes?

The problem that is sometimes impossible to get around with low budget movies is that there are some tropes that don’t do any favours to the filmmaker. Sometimes you don’t have time to do two shots, one of each actor talking and doing their thing. So you do one big wide and capture everything but concentrate on nothing. Performances get lost, details are glossed over and everything becomes very bland and samey.

This is a problem with Here and There. The good performances, which I only realised were there after much thought after the screening, weren’t helped by the shooting style. I thought of everything as bland and samey as yet another wide shot was presented in front of me. Every one of the actors does a good job (particularly the youngsters), but is let down by the direction. For every emotive turn by a character, there’s a scene that doesn’t connect.

Some of the blame for lack of connecting with characters can be put on the editing style, which just doesn’t work with the shooting style. There are some long emotive shots that work when there’s something to focus on, but other times nothing is really shown in any great detail. This coupled with the fact that some shots just need to cut to mix things up makes for a very bored viewer.

Which is a shame, because the actual plot and story is very well done. Where the movie does work well is the few instances I felt connected with the protagonist. His sense of the impossibility of the situation, as whatever he did meant some part of his life was missing out. This story is about what happens when you are forced to deal with all your responsibilities. This idea’s hardly original, but the sense of anxiety and weight on shoulders was the main point and that aspect worked well.

In the end, Here and There is a film that’s taken a couple of days to gestate. Whilst watching it, you could be forgiven for falling asleep (this is not hyperbole). But thinking back on it time and again, there’s a certain appreciation that’s grown. The story, the acting, the overriding emotions. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t take the bits I do remember and leave out all the rest.

For every one ‘good part’, there are a couple of scenes that made me wonder what the point was. I know it was supposed to be ‘day in the life’ stuff, but that’s no excuse for making his life seem bland. He enjoys it. The audience should too.

Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★

Matt Smith

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