Monday, April 9, 2012

HERE: Cartology and biology drive Braden King's luscious, Armenia-set love story

I'd watch this unusual love story (from first-time, full-length narrative filmmaker Braden King) all over again -- just to hear HERE's gorgeous, poetic and brainy narration, spoken by Peter Coyote. It's lovely, luminous and seems to float there, above, just beyond one's complete understanding (unless maybe you happen to be a first-rate map-maker). That's what our hero, Will Shepard (played by Ben Foster), does for a living. And while we get a little information about his maps and how he makes them, it's really the other side of the equation -- the young woman Will meets and takes up with, Gadarine, who notes at one point that her name is Katerina (played by Lubna Azabal, from Incendies) -- of whom we learn the most.

This is unusual in a movie made by a man, ostensibly about a man and the woman he meets. Yet Here seems more about the woman and the man she meets. Mr. King, pictured at left, is generous to a fault concerning the character, family, occupation and interests of his heroine. His hero, however, remains pretty much a cipher. But thanks to the usual good work of Mr. Foster, Will is always believable, if circumspect  -- except for his map-making -- in the extreme. Well, of course: He 's a guy. So then, Here becomes a kind of road trip/love story in which that road traverses Armenia, a country that is certainly uber-photogenic (see below).

Given that the movie is quite aware and makes us equally aware of its provenance and intentions (within the first few minutes, a typical film crew clapboard featuring the word HERE is held up to our view as a way of announcing the film's title), King quickly drops that slightly pretentious opening to get us heavily involved with his two well-worth-spending-time-with protagonists.

Their relationship grows quietly and believably throughout the film, as their trip takes us on one interesting event after another -- from a lovely visit with an old school friend and her husband and family to a swim in a gorgeous mountain quarry to a run-in with soldiers at a border crossing.

More of that good narration is provided in maybe four or five sequences as the movie moves along, and each is sterling, particularly the one at film's end. Love stories -- whether from Hollywood, foreign lands or independents -- are a dime a dozen, so an unusual one like Here is worth a shout-out.

The film, from Strand Releasing, with a running time of 126 minutes, opens this Friday, April 13, here in New York City at the IFC Center. One would hope that other cities and theaters will be forthcoming. But these days, who knows? A DVD and /or streaming, at least, should be in the cards.

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