The Movie Waffler New Release Review - HERE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - HERE

Here review
As he prepare to leave Brussels, a Romanian construction worker bonds with a young Chinese-Belgian woman.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Bas Devos

Starring: Stefan Gota, Liyo Gong, Cedric Luvuezo, Teodor Corban, Saadia Bentaïeb, Alina Constantin

Here poster

Here's Here, but before we get to Here here's a question: once you reach a certain age, how on earth do people make new friends? When you're young and abide within institutions such as school, college or the various designations of the gig economy, it's easy because you're around people as dumb and full of fun as you are. There are social scenes. It's expected that you hang out, and one thing leads to another. But now, today... How do you do it? In what ways are you supposed to cultivate a meaningful, platonic relationship with another human being past 25? I'm not talking about romantic pairings - which, honestly, is a far easier prospect to organise - but becoming mates with someone. The answer, to me, remains a mystery (apart from joining a book club, which, to be fair, was a good shout - but you do have to read some awful books and be nice about them), and perhaps the reason why Here, Bas Devos' poetic, gentle meditation on the connections formed between two lonely people, who are both liminal within their respective contexts, struck such a melancholic chord with me.

Here review

We open in Brussels on a high-rise construction site: always an intensely cinematic mise-en-scene, with exposed frames and beams framing subjects within an expressive, threshold territory (the people who make these lux city spaces are rarely the ones who will enjoy the finished products). We home in on Stefan (Stefan Gota), a Romanian builder. On his bus route home, Devos pointedly frames Stefan sharing a cramped back seat with two other workers: conversation is sparse and functional. Stefan arrives home alone, where he sleeps, wakes, cleans his fridge out, makes soup, and batches it up in Tupperware via a sequence which takes over five minutes. Neither Stefan nor Devos are in any particular rush, and the subsequent pace of Here is transcendental in its deliberation and its sincere storytelling.

Stefan isn't isolated, just adrift. He meets a pal with similar intangibility, working as a night receptionist at a swanky hotel. The two sit at empty tables, which under real terms they probably couldn't afford, and eat the soup which Stefan home-made earlier; trespassers upon a life beyond their means but which wouldn't exist without people like them (there are apparently over 43,000 Romanian workers in Brussels). Throughout the realism of the narrative, Grimm Vandekerckhove's cinematography infuses the frame with deep colours and oblique imagery, imbuing human significance on the ostensibly simple narrative. In a world of shadows and transitions, bonds of friendship are held on to tightly.

Here review

To wit, we are introduced to Shuxiu (Liyo Gong) via a voice-overed sequence which focusses intensely on the nature of moss and how it grows, a fitting metaphor for the organic pace of this film. Shuxiu is a university biology lecturer and by night works in her aunt's Chinese restaurant. This is where she meets Stefan, and the first seeds of their relationship are sown. Like the close ups of foliage and fauna which Here favours, we see their relationship blossom, albeit slowly (Devos has primed us for the union throughout the film by deliberately locating Stefan within green milieus as he wanders, delivering his soup to the people he meets).

Here review

And that's it; a gentle hour passes where people talk, they smile and share experiences, with the audience along for the stroll, too. But perhaps if Here, with its tender humanity, does have a message, it's that meeting people isn't that hard, not really. All of us in our own ways are lonely, and we welcome interaction. All it takes it that understanding and belief in each other: that lack of fear. And a big tureen of homemade soup. Pass the ladle.

Here is in UK/ROI cinemas from June 7th.

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