Starring: David Thornton, Branislav Trifunovic, Mirjana Karanovic
Directed by: Darko Lungulov (“Escape”)
Written by: Darko Lungulov (debut)
A lighthearted, deadpan and overall stagnant Serbian romantic comedy, “Here and There” wagers all its effectiveness on whether or not its lead character Robert (David Thornton) will transform from a sneering killjoy into someone who can squeeze out an occasional smile without fracturing a hip.
While the empty smirks come in small spurts, Thornton fails to make Robert a sympathetic character or mold him into the thriving man first-time feature director/writer Darko Lungulov would have liked him to become.
In “Here and There,” Robert, a cynical New York City musician short on cash, decides to travel to Russia to earn some money by marrying a Serb (Jelena Mrdja) and bringing her back to her boyfriend Branko (Branislav Trifunovic) in the U.S.
Things, of course, do not work out as planned when Branko can’t come up with the $5,000 he owes Robert. Consequently, Robert is trapped in Serbia where he is staying with Branko’s mother Olga (Mirjana Karanovic) until the immigration paperwork is completed.
Although Robert and Olga’s relationship starts off a bit rocky (she irritates him by washing his clothes without asking for permission) their shared loneliness gives them both reason to seek out happiness with one another. It’s a relationship reminiscent of the one between the culturally-diverse characters Richard Jenkins and Hiam Abbass portray in 2007’s “The Visitor,” but without the warmth and genuine moments of companionship.
It is evident Lungulov would like “Here and There” to be a sort of love letter to Belgrade, but the quirkiness doesn’t come across as charming nor does Robert’s appreciation for life seem all that revolutionary. He might clean up nicely (with the exception of that feral, feathered mane) and does give his best impression of a love-struck teenager, but his apathetic attitude during his most life-affirming moments casts an unappealing shadow on the entire narrative.