Jan 16, 2024
Derek Nelson, Jill Greenacre, Jennifer Martin
Writer/director Tim Seyfert’s Nowhere is, in many ways, a perfect January movie. It is after all, the time of the year where most of us feel at our most miserable, aimless and dejected – much like the film’s lost protagonist. A thoughtful examination of trauma, and an ultimately uplifting message, is an effective tonic for the month’s blues.
Max (Derek Nelson) is a Californian living in the UK working as a supply teacher. Haunted by a difficult past that led him to leave home, he spends his days in-between temporary jobs getting high and having meaningless sex. When a fateful encounter with a woman named Michele (Jennifer Martin) leaves him with a strange sense of longing, Max begins a journey to confront his own past, and reclaim his life’s purpose.
Nowhere is an elusive film that examines a complicated protagonist in the midst of a quiet crisis. Audience investment in Max’s story is key to the film’s success – and a combination of Derek Nelson’s empathetic and endearing portrayal and Tim Seyfert’s slow unravelling of his protagonists’ past mean this buy-in is assured. The film is about very human problems – such as addiction, PTSD, depression and rejection – and ultimately its messaging on these matters is one that feels authentic and realistic. This does mean it lacks a little sizzle throughout, but the viewer’s will to follow Max’s story means emotional engagement.
A key theme of the story is Max’s tendency to be his own worst enemy. He fails to meet deadlines, abuses drugs and lies to family amongst a number of other failings – with the ultimate cause being an unresolved family trauma that he has never fully confronted. Derek Nelson ensures that despite his failings, Max remains relatable and supportable. The ‘fish out of water’ element is pulled off brilliantly – an introduction scene in his new classroom being a highlight – and the wry humour injected also sands Max’s edges enough that he never comes across as selfish or frustrating as a lead character.
The film ends up feeling a little dreary by the end of its runtime. It’s perhaps inevitable given it is ultimately a drama about depression and anxiety set in the UK with significant time spent in a secondary school or a run-down apartment, but uninspired scene-staging risks disengagement even with this in mind. Sections of the film set in the past which are shot in black and white almost feel revolutionary. The story and character examination is ultimately still strong, but the actual storytelling itself feels lacking.
Nowhere however is still a worthwhile drama that successfully captures the sense of melancholy and gloom that comes with not knowing where you are meant to be or doing in life. Seyfert does a fine job of realising Max as a character, and interrogating the human tendency to box our problems away to our own detriment.