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on April 16, 2012
If you're impatient or impervious to the charms of Sean Penn, most likey you'll be unamused. On the other hand, a film whose resume also boasts Frances McDormand, Harry Dean Stanton, Judd Hirsch and a trifecta of performances (live music, a soundtrack and acting) from David Byrne deserves at least an interview.

Even so, it comes very close to blowing the interview, taking an age to answer straightforward questions, seeming distracted, needlessly self-involved and with little interest, at first, in impressing the beholder.

But it does warm up a bit.

To give some sense of both the film's glacial slowness and its self-indulgence, at its mid-point it halts for a five minute intermezzo in which David Byrne and his group perform the title song, in its entirety, live in concert. Apropos nothing, slap-bang in the middle of the film. Now it's a good song, well performed and imaginatively staged (extraordinarily staged, really), but still it is out of all context and has the effect of staunching what gentle narrative current had begun to flow.

Cheyenne (Penn) is an elderly piece of gothic jetsam, washed up from the new-wave scene of the early Eighties. He hasn't played since, yet still mopes around his Dublin castle bedecked in black and with all the boyish accoutrements a wiser man might have put away years before: Black fright wig, white face paint, red lipstick and knee high platform boots.

In other words, he resembles Robert Smith, only older. The cruel would see a flash of Bono in there too. When Cheyenne puts on his half-moon reading spectacles and distractedly blows at a Gothic lock, he even looks like Shirley Williams might, were she the lead singer of the Damned.

Cheyenne rattles around his castle with his firefighter wife Jane (McDormand) and a dog with a funnel on its head. They have an open house, in and out of which flow irregulars: a T'ai-Chi expert, a young singer toting a demo CD he wants Cheyenne to produce and Mary, an under-explained goth teenager who operates like the daughter Cheyenne and Jane never had. Mary isn't half as under-explained as her mother, though, who sits smoking in her room in a bedsit in the shadow of Aviva Stadium (which waggish locals, I gather, call the "Palindrome"!) and staring wordlessly down the street every day. She seems to have some relation to Cheyenne, but despite having read the production notes I couldn't tell you what it is, and I defy anyone watching without them not to be totally flummoxed.

All of this passes Cheyenne by in a hazy, laconic stupor. He slurps juice through a straw and doesn't smoke, so you suppose the drugs have long since done their work. He glumly wheels his trolley to the mall, passively copping mockery and abuse as if he were carrying a cross. Which, of course, he is.

Just as we're settling into this rather surreal Irish kitchen-sink drama, we find out more about that cross. It's a cross of iron. Cheyenne's estranged father, back home in New York, is dying. He embarks, slowly (by ocean liner, of course), to see him. He arrives too late. It turns out Cheyenne is the black sheep of an observant Jewish family. His dad was an Auschwitz survivor.

At this news, you may be thinking: "oh-oh". I certainly was. In any case, this unexpected new plot beat graunches the gears, but is neatly lubricated by David Byrne's bravura performance.

So begins Act II: in his father's death, Cheyenne finds the purpose that has been eluding him over half his life: to cast off his cross. He decides to track down the Auschwitz guard who tormented his father.

As a plot development, given all we know about Cheyenne, this isn't just improbable: it's preposterous. But the outcome isn't half as bad (cinematically) as it could be. Cheyenne borrows a pickup and sets off into America's great interior. He has traded his shopping trolley for a wheelie suitcase but kept the gothic garb, so be under no illusions: Cheyenne still has Baggage.

The undercurrent of Lynchian weirdness in the first half of the film thereby becomes explicit - Cheyenne's meandering progress and the oddballs he meets would not be out of place in The Straight Story (in which Alvin Straight journeys across the Midwest on a lawnmower). While this film isn't half as accomplished, there are some beautiful touches and a couple of moments of excellent slapstick (one involving a speed rollerblader in Central Park is worth the price of admission alone). The photography capturing the wide-open beauty of Utah, often through a super-wide angle lens at ankle level, is often arresting.

The Nazi theme is never over-egged: it is a Macguffin of sorts, not a driving theme of the film. The final confrontation with the ancient (and, as they go, relatively innocuous) camp guard is deftly handled. There is a startling denouement which has as much to say about the instinct for revenge as it does about the Nazi atrocities.

Penn is very good throughout as Cheyenne: a tough character to play without comic exaggeration, and it must have been challenging to Penn to hold such loosely-knit film together with such an unenergetic role. He succeeds surprisingly well.

This Must Be The Place won't blow the box office, and it is hard to see it finding unqualified critical support, but it has many bright moments and some surprisingly tender ones.

Olly Buxton
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on March 31, 2013
Never heard of this movie and stumbled across it. If you like unusual movies this is one for you! It is a story about a rock star who never grew up. Or anyone who never grew up!! Really great story! Sean Penn was great! Not a mainstream movie! Which is why we LOVED it!! Must watch!
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on April 14, 2013
This is a really, really good film. Sean Penn carries it all the way, but the supporting actors are perfect too. If I had had to say what the movie is about (without giving away the plot), it's about kindness. What makes it work so well is the authenticity and innocence of Penn's character. "Do you like tattoos?" asks a tattooed man drinking next to him in a bar. "I'm not sure" replies 'Penn', "I was just asking myself the same question a moment ago when I was looking at you." And so it goes. It's a great and happy film. See it!
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on April 22, 2013
Sean Penn turns in an amazing performance as an aging, damaged 80s glam rock star who is stuck in that persona. But the scary persona belies the soft-spoken, warm-hearted creature he has become. The death of his father leads him on a quest of discovery. Like an onion, the layers of this film are pealed back to reveal what is below. This is a film I will watch multiple times.
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on April 12, 2013
In some reviews here people say it is boring, I' say: - Do not confuse slow with boring.
Penn is very good in his difficult role so is the lovely wife-firefighter (I started to love her in Fargo). It is a strange movie, production is european, script is italian, half movie is made in Ireland and the other half in the middle of the States, actors are all or almost all americans. So yes it is a strange movie.
If you are intoxicated with the actual hollywood's action movie where superfast is never fast enough hmmm... well it will probably give you the impression you are looking to a movie in slow-mode but I advice you not to give up and to change your point of view.
Photography is good, colors are beautiful, music is nice, acting is good so is the direction. See and hear David Byrne is always a pleasure too.
Would I suggest this to a friend? Yes, definitely.
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on April 25, 2013
Sean Penn embodies a retired rock star who is human in every way. The expressions, voice and mannerisms that Penn employ are are spot-on for this flawed, imperfect character and unlike any I've seen him use in previous films. This is a great film about love and relationships an soul searching.
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on March 29, 2013
This movie runs at a slower pace than most people would expect. It is, however, substantial and a decent story. Sean Penn continues to amaze me, with the roles he can take on. The basis of the story has a sub-story, of his relationship with his mother. Some of it isn't clear, or perhaps it wasn't when I first watched.

The ending is a wonderful surprise.

I would say this movie is more cerebral, as you really have to engage your mind to understand the deeper aspects it presents. Just don't expect it to be a fast-paced thriller, that is not what it's meant to be.

I highly recommend it.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon March 25, 2013
I was not sure if I would like it, but I waited fpr the day and the right moment and mood for watching it and I am glad I did , it is not easy movie , and will make you think , there are light moments, funny and also deep and sad moments , it is like the director tried to unwrap the brain and you need to find the missing parts , still it made all sense to me from the beginning to the end
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on March 28, 2013
Sean Penn is such a versatile actor and he shows that again in this movie. I thought this was a really funny, sweet movie. But if you don't like quirky, you probably won't like this.
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on March 30, 2013
really enjoyed this strange film, it meanders through lives and affections, with humor and depth.Sean Penn is amazing as washed up pop star.
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