Meet Me in Montenegro
2015, NR, 88 min. Directed by Alex Holdridge, Linnea Saasen. Starring Alex Holdridge, Linnea Saasen, Rupert Friend, Jennifer Ulrich.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 14, 2015
Despite the fact that it jogs by on something of rom-com-cliche treadmill for much of its running time, Alex Holdridge’s autobiographical, lovesick travelogue about a struggling filmmaker who unexpectedly reunites with the one that got away is an emotionally honest portrait of artistic insecurity and a realistic depiction of the always befuddling road to true romance. Holdridge, the director of 2007’s Independent Spirit Award-winning In Search of a Midnight Kiss, and Saasen (Montenegro’s co-writer, -director, and -editor) play Anderson and Lina. (Holdridge and Sassen are also a couple in real life.) In a voiceover prologue, Anderson recounts how they met cute on a train seven years earlier and impetuously decided to travel to the scenic Balkan seaside for what he believed was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Instead, after a few days of sunny, smiley sensuality, Lina, a Norwegian dancer, vanishes, leaving Anderson only a brief note and a shattered heart. (Shades of everything from Casablanca to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise reverberate throughout, with a side of Woody Allen-esque neurotic menschiness thrown in for good measure.)
Cut to the present and Anderson is on his way to Berlin to pitch an actor on his newest script – a big-budget, action-oriented project improbably titled Supercollider. Fate, kismet, or just plain plot necessity – and again, this entire film is autobiographical – reconvenes the romance with Lina, who just happens to be visiting Berlin as well, and much navel-gazing on the subject of work vs. love follows. The eventual outcome of all this hesitant, wounded heart-play is never truly in doubt. Montenegro shall rise again, and an unnecessary but intriguing subplot involving the floundering interpersonal issues between Anderson’s Brit-in-Berlin pal Stephen (Friend) and his girlfriend Friederike (Ulrich) seems tacked on, mainly to give Anderson a sounding board for his own problems with Lina.
I would have been more than tickled if Holdridge had chosen to merge his true-life love story with the fictional Supercollider and retitled the whole shebang Destination: CERN!, but, as Anderson finally realizes come film’s end: You can’t have everything. Or can you? Director of photography Robert Murphy deserves a Spirit Award of his own for his breathtaking and evocative lensing of ever-cinematic Berlin and Montenegro, and Stephen Coates’ melancholic score is equally suited to the story at hand. It’s a story we’ve seen before, in countless cinematic iterations, but there’s no denying that Holdridge and Saasen’s hearts are in the right place … although I’d still like to see Holdridge tackle that fictional Supercollider film at some point in the future.