Sunday, August 7, 2016

Li Lu's complicated love-at-first-sight tale, THERE IS A NEW WORLD SOMEWHERE

A young woman named Sylvia -- whose boss at a New York art gallery explains that her work is not good enough to be included in even a group show -- is so fed up that she quits, leaving town to attend the wedding of a friend in Austin, Texas. At the night-before party she makes eye contact with a hot-looking guy who, on this first date, invites her to come away with him. This could be the start of a movie in any number of genres, from kidnap thriller to feel-good love story. In the hands of writer/director Li Lu, however, it becomes something more complicated and interesting.

Ms Lu (shown at right), a Chinese-born filmmaker whose first full-length film this is, seems most interested in slowly developing character, and while the manner in which she does this may seem initially rather typical, if beautifully filmed, stick with THERE IS A NEW WORLD SOMEWHERE. It gets better as it goes along, and in its two attractive and talented leads, Agnes Bruckner (two photos below) and Maurice Compte (below), it boasts actors who can hold the screen and our attention well enough to hit pay dirt thoughtfully and quietly by movie's end.

A psychotherapist friend of Trust Movies once told him that any two individuals could form a lasting relationship, the only prerequisites being that the two were autonomous and that they wanted that relationship. Ms Lu's movie would seem to bear out this theory, even though our two characters here are not yet autonomous. But they're trying to be, and by movie's end they've made some growth in that direction.

The ups and down, stops and starts of that growth, as well as the small bits of information we begin to learn about Esteban, the male part of this duo, is what gives the movie its slow, quiet propulsion. The dialog ranges from simply OK to a good deal more than that. "You don't trust anyone, do you?" he asks of her early on. And this seems, unfortunately, to be true.

She also does not appear to enjoy sex all that much, though the pair has it with some frequency. (It may be that he does not know how to or care about satisfying her, but she may also not be able to be satisfied so easily.) And yet they are drawn to each other both physically and emotionally.

So "New World Somewhere" is a road trip/getting-to-know-you kind of movie -- which turns darker as more and more reality, along with the past, begins to intrude. Leaving the wedding party so suddenly was a selfish thing to do, and Sylvia will eventually cop to and pay for this. Esteban, for his part, has major abandonment issues resulting in an inability to "try."

When, at a particular moment, an early lie in the relationship is uncovered, everything seems to change. But even then, Ms Lu has more on her mind that simple closure and conclusion. There is indeed a new world somewhere. But getting on the right road to that world can take an awful lot of work.

From Emerging Pictures (in its theatrical release) and Gravitas Ventures (for its VOD release, which began this past Tuesday, August 2), the movie, running 103 minutes, is worth seeking out and wrestling with. Click here to see all further theatrical screenings. VOD platforms include iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Playstation Store, VUDU, Amazon Video, Microsoft and Hoopla.

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