Somewhere is the story of a famous actor, Johnny Marco and the things he does to fill his spare time between film productions. His life of drinking and sex is interrupted when the mother of his daughter, Cleo, leaves the young girl on his doorstep to stay with him for an indefinite amount of time.
Well, I don’t know if “story” is quite the word for what this film is. As director Sophia Coppola has said of the film, it is more of a character study, a visual poem. Somewhere doesn’t tell you what to make of its main character, or his young daughter. The camera lingers on the faces of the actors for long stretches, as if to indicate some great undercurrent of meaning that ultimately doesn’t seem to be there. Before the arrival of his daughter, the long shots of Johnny Marco smoking, drinking, sitting, driving, and ogling at women work to emphasize the emptiness of his life–the vast space that he can’t seem to fill. There are gorgeous, scantly-clad women moving through his world. The amount of time the camera spends on these women seems to suggest something profound about Jonny’s lack of meaningful relationships, but scenes linger and distract more than they inform.
Then, Johnny’s daughter is dropped into his life. Their relationship prior to this has been defined by brief visits and phone calls. As Johnny begins to interact with his daughter, the style of the film falls a bit off the rails. Continuing the habit of long, quiet scenes doesn’t work well given the emotionally charged scenario. Cleo is graceful, childlike, and delightful, but the film seems to deny her character any depth of emotion given the situation she has been thrown into. The camera lingers, which creates a tone and facilitates a style that ultimately doesn’t work given the narrative.
I really wanted to like this film. I’m a big fan of Sophia Coppola’s work, but I didn’t think the emotionally charged narrative got the engaging style it needed to really work. It is as if the film can’t decide how to explore its characters, except to step back from them a bit, mistaking this for thoughtful, careful attention. It takes you somewhere, but I wish it had been more engaging, somehow.