Release Date(s)2019 (May 31, 2022)
Studio(s)Gusto Entertainment (Dekanalog/Vinegar Syndrome)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B-
Take Me Somewhere Nice is the debut feature from Bosnian-Dutch writer/director Ena Sendijarevic, which won awards from both the Rotterdam and the Sarajevo Film Festivals in 2019. The picaresque story follows Alma (Sara Luna Zoric) as she leaves her mother in the Netherlands to visit her estranged father in Bosnia, who has recently been hospitalized. When she arrives, she’s met by her cousin Emir (Ernad Prnjavorac), who isn’t happy to have her around, though Emir’s friend Denis (Lazar Dragojevic) takes an interest in her. Nothing goes as planned for Alma, starting with the fact that she can’t get into her luggage, but that problem solves itself when she loses the luggage, all of her money, and most of her patience. So she heads out on her own to try and see her father, but she has to deal with more obstacles, all of which she faces in her own laid-back manner. As her destination becomes less clear, the journey itself becomes more important.
If some of that sounds familiar, it may be because that’s the same general setup as Jim Jarmusch’s debut Stranger Than Paradise: a young woman traveling from another country meets up with a cousin who doesn’t want to have to deal with her, and the cousin’s friend who feels quite differently. Alma’s indifference during her various encounters also recalls Anna’s ennui in Chantal Ackerman’s Les Rendez-vous d'Anna. Yet while Take Me Somewhere Nice does wear its influences on its sleeve, it still manages to find its own voice in the process, as well as its own style. Sendijarevic loves off-kilter framing, with an interesting use of mirrors and other points of reflection to mimic the fractured nature of the digital age. She often keeps the characters confined to the bottom third of the frame, and sometimes has them inverted in the top third, or even confined to the corners. The rest of the frame acts as negative space, keeping the characters distanced from their environment. It’s an effective visual representation of Alma’s inherent detachment.
Alma may be indifferent, but she’s not diffident, and she does gain her own form of self-confidence along the way. It’s not a major arc, as much as it’s a gentle curve. She’s still somewhat enigmatic at the conclusion of Take Me Somewhere Nice, which ends abruptly on an ambiguous note. That may not satisfy viewers who prefer clear resolutions, but it’s actually quite appropriate for a character like Alma. She’ll continue in her own fashion, with or without the approval of anyone else—the audience included. She no longer has a destination; just an ongoing journey.
Cinematographer Emo Weemhoff captured Take Me Somewhere Nice digitally, framed at 1.33:1. There’s no information available regarding the cameras, lenses, or resolutions that he used, but this Blu-ray offers a strong presentation of the film. The image is sharp, clear, and very detailed, especially with facial textures during close-ups. The stylized color scheme is quite distinctive, with pastels dominating much of the costuming and production design, forming a distinct contrast to the earth tones of the environments. The contrast range isn’t always the strongest, as Weemhoff appears to have chosen to expose darker scenes to maximize detail, rather than providing deep blacks. There’s also just a bit of noise in some of the darkest scenes, thought that’s likely how they were captured. It’s not necessarily an unprecedented look, but it’s a striking one.
Audio is offered in Dutch and Bosnian 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, with removable English subtitles. The packaging lists the audio as being in 5.1, and so do the websites for both Vinegar Syndrome and Dekanalog, but it’s still just 2.0 on the disc. It does appear to be surround encoded, however, although the surrounds are limited to basic ambience. The score by Ella van der Woude provides decent bass extension, as do most of the songs, though for some reason, it’s more limited in a scene set in a club. The dialogue remains clear throughout.
Dekanalog is a film and soundtrack distribution company represented by OCN Distribution, which is a sister company to Vinegar Syndrome. Their Blu-ray release of Take Me Somewhere Nice is packaged in a clear amaray case that displays artwork on the reverse side of the insert, which is visible when the case is opened. It also includes a 20-page booklet featuring a conversation between Sendijarevic and Bosnian-Dutch artist Milos Trakilovic, which was taken from This Is Badland magazine. There’s also an embossed slipcover available directly from Vinegar Syndrome, limited to the first 2,000 units. The following extras are included, all in HD:
- Magic in the Night (8:51)
- Take Me Home (13:17)
- Short Films: Import (2016) (17:25)
- Short Films: Fernweh (2014) (14:36)
- Short Films: Travelers in the Night (2013) (10:08)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:20)
Magic in the Night is an interview with Sendijaravic, who describes the ways in which Take Me Somewhere Nice relates to her earlier short films. She also explains how the story evolved into a road movie, and says that it’s a personal film for her, but not an autobiographical one. Take Me Home is an interview with lead actor Sara Luna Zoric, who is also Bosnian-Dutch, so she was able to draw from her own search for identity to play the character of Alma. She details what it was like to shoot the film despite having no previous acting experience, and also talks about going to the premiere, as well as to the Cannes Film Festival.
The three short films are a complete collection of Sendijaravic’s works prior to Take Me Somewhere Nice. Import is about the struggles of an immigrant Bosnian family trying to integrate into Dutch society. Fernweh is about a young girl who has a difficult time adjusting to living with a new foster family. Finally, Travelers in the Night features a woman working the late shift at a convenience store, who has a brief moment of escape from reality, before being reminded of just how harsh that reality can be. Watching all three of these together, it’s easy to see how Sendijaravic combined and reworked ideas from each of them to create Take Me Somewhere Nice.
Dekanalog’s mission statement is to release unique filmmaking voices and musical scores from around the world, and Take Me Somewhere Nice certainly qualifies as that. Many elements within it may seem somewhat derivative, but Sendijarevic found a unique way to combine them while adding her own personal stamp to the material. It’s a strong debut from a filmmaker who’s worth keeping an eye on in the future.
- Stephen Bjork