Take Me Somewhere Nice review – strange and stylised trip through Bosnia

Ena Sendijarević's impressive debut follows a teenager on a transformative trip through Bosnia in a bid to meet her dying father

If a debut can be deployed as a display of promise and potential, Dutch film Take Me Somewhere Nice serves as one heck of a calling card. Written and directed by 33-year-old Ena Sendijarević, it unfolds as a strange and sexy road movie dressed up in pastel and bubblegum colours – purposely quirky, reality heightened, presented with dry wit and deadpan style, though posing interesting questions about birthright, nationalism, and the relationships shared between European countries.

The story finds attractive, stern-faced Dutch-Bosnian teenager Alma (Sara Luna Zorić) on a trip to Bosnia in order to see her dying father for the first (and presumably last) time. He left the Netherlands when she was just a child, drawn home by a deep and nostalgic love for his native land. Her mother arranges for Alma to meet with her thuggish cousin, Emir (Ernad Prnjavorac), who has mixed feelings about her arrival. Within hours Alma has stuck up a fling with Emir’s best friend, Denis (Lazar Dragojević), after the two have impulsive sex.

But things quickly unravel when Emir refuses to drive Alma to the hospital where her dad is located and so she sets out across the Bosnian heartland alone, triggering a series of unfortunate incidents. She’s left stranded at a hotel, and must be rescued by the boys who refused to take her in the first place. Yet there’s no clearly defined plot here, the film indulging a series of darkly comic or darkly absurd sequences, Bosnia brought to life as though in a series of interconnected vignettes (Sendijarević has cited Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise as an influence, and it shows).

Zorić plays Alma as a teenager of few words. Rarely smiling, she drifts in and out of scenarios with an indifference that’s surely hiding a dozen emotions. Like most teenagers she is prone to acting on a whim, like at the beginning when she dyes her hair blonde for no apparent reason. After losing her suitcase she spends most of the movie clad in a short, pastel dress, unopposed to casual sex, frequently stripping down to her underwear in order to sunbathe – or to simply be unclothed. Inevitably Denis falls in love with her, and is there also something more to Emir’s cold glances?

All the performances are effective – eccentric, but lived-in. Those that Alma and her companions meet along the way all feel like people with rich histories of their own, despite the fabricated nature of this world. Sometimes the symbolism and the metaphors fall on the heavy handed side, though it must be said that the film’s final shot is arresting and unexpected, provocative and strange.

Perhaps more than anything, though, it’s the visual look that sticks. Take Me Somewhere Nice is beautifully composed and packed with brilliant and detailed production design, giving Bosnia, caught halfway between the modern and retro designs of its former Soviet rule, a distinct look that comes to feel like an extension of Alma’s internal conflict. Camera seldom moving, the story is almost presented as a series of still – and oddly framed – photographs.

Sometimes a movie comes along and you sense a bright future for whoever is behind the camera. This is one such film. Sendijarević has certainly delivered on the promise of her film’s title with this impressive oddity.

Take Me Somewhere Nice is now streaming on MUBI.

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