“At this particular moment I’m trying to fix up a sad boy and a sad girl, but it’s not easy. I suspect that sadness is not compatible with sadness”
I suspect some people may have been put off by the poster for ‘This Must Be The Place’ by the image of Sean Penn with mad hair and lipstick. And not gone to see this rather sweet and often profound movie. But ironically his character’s appearance has the same effect on the world around him, distancing people from his shy persona. The story follows retired goth-rock star Cheyenne who has spent twenty years hiding away in Dublin after two of his fans killed themselves. When he hears his estranged father is gravely ill he makes the journey to back to his home in New York. When he gets there, he is too late and instead finds a book of clues to track down a Nazi guard that his father has been looking for since he survived Auschwitz.
Penn’s whole physical portrayal of Cheyenne is as quirky and gentle as his characters almost whispered voice. Frances McDormand is wonderful, if underused as Cheyenne’s reassuringly normal and understanding wife. The plot is intertwined with the beautiful lyrics of Talking Heads’ 1982 song ‘This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)’ so there is a brief cameo by David Byrne himself. Byrne is one of the greatest artistic geniuses Scotland has produced, as a musician, a photographer, an opera and film composer and a sculptor, but in his brief cameo in this film, he unfortunately shows that acting isn’t one of his chief talents.
The film celebrates the unique little improbable moments that really do happen everyday. As the camera drifts through Cheyenne’s life we see unexplained neighbours dressed as Batman, farmers looking like Hitler, ping-pong balls landing in glasses of ice-tea and strangest of all, the sight of Dublin’s gleaming glass Aviva Stadium towering like a giant space-craft over rows of pebble-dashed council houses. ‘This Must Be The Place’ is a film that lingers long in the memory and I’m already wanting a second viewing to delve deeper into its quixotic charms.