I want to begin by saying that although I really like this film, I am extremely aware of the fact that it’s not for everyone. Not because it’s particularly intellectual (it’s not), or that people won’t ‘get it’ (you most likely will), but because it’s a film that couldn’t be anything other than a Sofia Coppola film. It’s absolutely concerned with the characters and character relationships over the plot; there’s no real climax, no dramatic resolution, and I understand that that will make for a boring film for some people. I’ll admit that Somewhere lacks the level of wit that made Lost in Translation (2003) so brilliant, the two films being very similar with regard to themes and execution, but it does have its moments, and for me it is the only area where the film doesn’t live up to its potential.
Actually, the reason I love Somewhere is its subtlety. I’m a fan of Sofia Coppola in general because of this, because I love long scenes with sometimes uncomfortably naturalistic dialogue, and I love how voyeuristic the films feel as a result. The cinematography is, as expected, beautiful; Coppola always has a way of making every aspect of the film reflect the characters, their feelings, their personalities, and it’s something I greatly admire. Somewhere is not excluded from this; the central theme of the film is the father-daughter relationship the shots are often very carefully composed to reflect whatever state that relationship is in at the time. There’s this sense that you are getting a glimpse into these beautifully constructed, realistic characters’ lives, and it’s somehow fascinating and hypnotic. Somewhere is, for me, a perfect example of Coppola’s skill in this field.
Our main character, Johnny Marco, is a man tied to nothing. Within the first few minutes of the film it’s clear that he is a man whose main personality trait is apathy, floating through his strange life as a celebrity with the help of fast cars and nameless women. I feel as though oftentimes in cinema this kind of character is shown to be enjoying the lifestyle, even if it’s just a facade that eventually falls away, but with Marco it is obvious from the start that he is dissatisfied, living his life this way perhaps because that’s how celebrities are supposed to, because he has no real ambition, because there is nothing he truly wants. Long scenes of Marco driving his car round and round in pedantic circles or sitting nearly expressionless on a bed whilst he watches two pole dancers, the way he’s shown to live in hotel rooms, even the title of the film all lead to this same conclusion.
The real gem of this film is his daughter, Cleo, played by Elle Fanning. Charming and instantly endearing, Cleo provides a way for the audience to connect to Marco just as she provides a way for Marco to connect to his own life. This is done without dramatic confrontation; she cooks for him, he watches her ice skate and practice ballet, they order room service together. It’s not until Cleo leaves for camp and Marco is left alone again that we really see the small changes in his attitude towards life: he cries. It’s one of those moments that seems invasive, it’s not the kind of violent crying you might expect, he doesn’t throw anything across the room or trash the hotel room, it’s just a man crying and it’s the perfect way to show him getting back in touch with his emotions. He clumsily tries to clear up after himself, he abandons his car at the side of the road, he haphazardly cooks himself too much pasta, and it’s clear that he’s trying to get his life back on track by the influence of his daughter.
There are no miracles in this film, and it’s something I am very grateful for, because I would much rather end a film on an optimistic, hopeful note, than watch a forced, rushed resolution that seems far too perfect to be realistic. It’s not my favourite of Coppola’s films, but I don’t think I could bring myself not to love a film that encapsulates everything she does best as a director so brilliantly.