Take Me Somewhere Nice might have the prudes in the audience averting their eyes. It is full of scenes of nudity, casual sex between people who barely know one another and the suggestion that two first cousins might be sexually attracted to one another. There are times when it deliberately baits its audience and enjoys playing around with their preconceived notions about independent women trying to forge their own path in a foreign land. The direct, confrontational style sets this apart from the rest of the pack but this also means that it might seem inaccessible to some.
It begins by introducing us to Alma (Sara Luna Zoric), a Bosnian-Dutch youth who lives with her mother in the Netherlands. She’s presented as a typical teenage girl, who largely ignores her mother and worries about trivial issues. Her stable life is shaken up when she decides to travel to Bosnia in order to see her dying father. She finds it difficult to deal with the various challenges that she faces as a traveler and finds herself leaning on her cousin Emir (Ernad Prnjavorac). He works as a petty criminal and his underling Denis (Lazar Dragojevic) becomes romantically involved with Alma. This makes Emir uncomfortable and causes Alma to feel as though she needs to extricate herself from him.
From there, it takes a surprising left turn and becomes far more bizarre than it previously was. This tonal shift is not signposted and the pace speeds up to an almost unbearable degree. So many turning points in the plot would have been more drawn out if the focus had been on characters who seemed deeply concerned about the decisions they were making. The script seems determined to keep reminding you that these are just aimless kids who are biding their time until they reach adulthood. They follow their impulses and barely seem to consider the consequences of their actions. There are so many moments when it feels as though they’re semi-unconscious and experiencing the world around them as though it is some sort of dream. The cinematographer certainly tries to capture this mood by saturating every frame of the film with a blinding white light. Even during nighttime scenes, it does feel as though the film is set in another dimension. The slow pacing also contributes to this mood by removing any sense of suspense from the chain of events that we witness.
Director Ena Sendijarević does effectively establish a tone and creates a fairly immersive visual atmosphere, yet this doesn’t end up amounting to much. All too frequently, she uses a moment of vulgarity or perversity to keep the plot rolling along. It begins to feel as though she is just spinning her wheels and couldn’t come up with enough ideas to fill out a feature film. There are striking shots scattered here and there but they are few and far between. Her self consciously arty, Tom Hooper-esque shot compositions have the effect of distancing the audience from the characters on screen. She places the actor’s heads at the bottom of the frame and fills the rest of the frame with negative space. Perhaps this was meant to highlight the social alienation that the characters feel, despite the physical intimacy that they experience. They sit alone in cramped hotel rooms and throw each other around, but they are still dealing with unfamiliar surroundings and the feeling of being emotionally disconnected from one another. This was just one decision she made where the intent was obvious but she overuses this stylistic technique to a point where it becomes redundant. In belabouring her point, she loses the kernels of creativity that buoy the more exuberant stretches of the film.
One can sense that Sendijarević might be on the right track if she lets go of some of the cutesy affectations and finds a story that can serve as an accompaniment to the hypnotic, dreamlike atmosphere that she is so good at tapping into. If she can build on the promise that she displayed here, she could produce something that is truly bewitching.
Take Me Somewhere Nice is available in US theatres and virtual cinemas on Friday, June 11 2021