Released 2023. Director: Tim Seyfert
THINK OF YOUR FAVOURITE SAD SONG. THINK OF WHAT it evokes each time you hear it. You might recall a place, a time, a person, because on some level the song resonates with you. Nowhere, the feature directorial debut of writer-director Tim Seyfert, is the cinematic equivalent of a sad song.
Through the story of Max Slater, a man in self-exile, Nowhere examines the notions of loss and grief. In the specificities of Max’s experience we can find universal truths because the fundamental emotions he feels are common, like when you feel the sad song is written about you.
A few months ago Max left his home in California to be with a girl in Cornwall, England. Not long after, she moves on to pursue her own dream, leaving Max with a broken heart and her photo on the fridge. Max muddles through his days with no clear aim for the future, his life stuck in limbo. He’s a reluctant, over-qualified substitute teacher who smokes weeds and downs a pint every night at the local bar. In class, he teaches his students how to interpret characters, dig for subtext, identify metaphors and move on. His own life is the opposite. When his dad calls, Max doesn’t answer. He’s running away from something else in his family and clearly doesn’t wish to face up to it.
Seyfert’s use of writing as a therapy or a metaphor for the healing process is natural and logical for Max. The way Max struggles with the opening paragraph of his novel is a reflection of his inability to get over his loss. The way he keeps deleting the sentences mirrors his unprocessed feelings.
Given its premise, it’s easy for a film like this to become sentimental and even manipulative but Nowhere is built on lean writing that keeps the story grounded and real. Crucially, Nowhere is not all about wallowing in sorrow. Seyfert’s directing has a light touch in creating moments of humour and poignancy that in the end, points to a destination of hope and renewal.
The performances of the cast are beautifully restrained. Derek Nelson, in the role of Max, shoulders the weight and must convince us of his state of mind or the movie would not connect with the audience. Nelson builds on his character incrementally, draws you in slowly and succeeds in making Max honest and sympathetic.
When Max finally speaks with his dad, the extended scene of naked emotions is demanding on an actor but the naturalism that results brings the audience closer on Max’s journey. Another scene to note is when Max comes across a student who seems upset, sitting by herself on the floor by the stairwell. Max pauses, then sits next to her as a sign of support. You could argue it’s not consequential to the narrative but it shows the compassion in this privately disturbed man.
The supporting cast is given equally considered treatment. Jennifer Martin in particular, as Michele, Max’s casual hook-up who turns out to be his new superior at school, is a thoughtful character, not merely there to highlight our hero’s attributes.
For an independent film produced on spare change but undoubtedly fuelled by passion, it’s admirable what the cast and crew have achieved. As Seyfert has proven before with his short film Terminus, logistical constraints may limit but not prohibit the delivery of technique and genuine sentiments of a heartfelt story.
Succinct and sincere, Nowhere resonates with empathy.
Nowhere will make its world premiere at the 19th Monaco International Film Festival in November 2023 before embarking on a festival run in 2024.
For information on future screenings, visit www.kernowforniafilms.com
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