Anywhere can be nowhere. Luckily for us, the Nowhere in Tim Seyfert’s film is Cornwall. Stark and beautiful, mundane and rich, with lives being lived: moving from paused to play, or stuck on pause.
Nowhere takes the quiet beats of a life that’s on a fast track to, well, nowhere, and is punctuated by trips to the bar, one-night stands, alienating get-togethers with a friend and unfulfilling work. Yet the slow burn of this descent is intriguing, and the unobtrusive pacing pulls you in for an absorbing pause, and an itching desire for main character Max to sort himself out (a sentiment that’s more hugs than pushes).
Max (Derek Nelson) is an American who has moved to Cornwall to follow his heart. But his girlfriend has moved on, following her own dreams. Leaving Max rootless, with a substitute teaching job that leaves him empty, barely touching the sides of his love for the subject. His own writing is a pipe dream, and his connection with other humans involves isolated hook-ups, while his best buddy is settling down into fatherhood. Max bobs on a sea of loneliness, emptiness and a deep sense of loss.
Being dumped by a person you’ve moved continents for is understandably hard to take, but there’s more going on here. The running off to the remote end of the UK is more of a ‘running away’ than ‘running to’, and it’s driven by hope rather than love.
The camera allows the story to breathe as we watch Max’s cogs whirl into bad choices. Derek Nelson creates a sometimes baffled stillness that draws you in as fish-out-of-water Max, who only seems at home sharing his love for English in the classroom. There’s a churning under the surface, which Derek conveys with a self-defeating disregard, bemused and nulled at the world around him. That churn turns to yearn after a brief encounter with Michele (Jennifer Martin) opens up a sense of potential new beginnings. But don’t be deceived, Michele is a mess, aiming to get less messy. Jennifer Martin captures the carefree, world-worn and wise elements of a character who is unsure of her footing on emotional shifting sands. There’s cool distance between them that toys with the need to be asked, ‘what’s wrong?’
Julian Seager is the ebullient and supportive best friend, rejecting party-time for family time. Rory Wilton is fellow teacher who knells the doom-laden bell of ‘Ofsted are coming’. And Jill Greenacre provides icily efficient comedy as head of department.
Edge of limbo
There’s a semi-autobiographical authority to writer-director Tim Seyfert’s story, which gives the limbo an added edge. The naturalist style adds to the dramatic reality of a life fraying at the seams.
An added bonus of Nowhere is the straight-up storytelling; the confident patience of letting characters unfurl. It’s a technique that adds to the story and underlines the ethic and ethos of truly independent film – the gnawed honesty snags at your emotions and is ultimately enriching to watch.
Everybody is nowhere at some point: emotionally, mentally. It underlines that oft-shared notion that you can’t hide from yourself – Nowhere looks that straight in the eye. It’s uncomplicated filmmaking observing a complicated world. An ideal watch for true lovers of indie film.
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