March 5, 2012

Somewhere West. {Movie Review} ~ Hayley Samuelson

Somewhere West Screen Grab

What are you going to do with your next few hours? Next few days? Months? Upcoming year?

The majority of our responses to these questions take for granted their actual weight. Considering these questions from the point of view of someone succumbing to a terminal illness, who will not live to see these future dates, puts life and they way we live each day into perspective.

Somewhere West” is a travel film “that explores the human spirit with emotional breadth and quiet subtlety.” The main character, Ian is a terminally ill man who decides to opt out of spending his last days on Earth being treated in a hospital. Instead he embarks on an American road trip, a journey to live in every moment and a journey in search of somewhere perfect to live his final moments.

Over the course of his trip, Ian unexpectedly befriends a group of precarious characters that disrupt the solitude he established upon setting out on his journey. As he travels from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, to the Badlands, through the Black Hills, to Devil’s Tower, to Yellowstone, to the Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats, he discovers his reliance upon and appreciation for the bonds of friendship secured by these strangers. The trio includes a burnt-out gambling addict and two compassionate, beautiful women who each aid Ian in the “redemptive process of letting go, opening his heart and finally reaching his undetermined destination.”

Somewhere West Screen grab

The heart-breaking film remained honest and raw through its entirety, exposing the viewer to a side of terminal illness that is usually neglected by the media, the scary more real side.

As Ian avoids hospitals and professional medical care you are forced to come to terms with how debilitating and frightening illness can be. Watching his body fail him, combined with his radical mood changes and the confusion of his newfound friends, one gets insight on to just how heavy the weight of illness is to the sick.

One aspect of the film that I found particularly interesting was the use of sound. I cannot think of a film that uses sound so effectively to convey such a range of emotions without specifically pointing them out. When the film wants you to focus on the sound, it provides a visual that does not directly correlate with the sound that is being heard, which provokes you to think about what is going on in not only with the character but the bigger picture.

I found it rather amazing that by hearing gut-wrenching moans caused by throwing up or just methodic breathing I got a better understading for the character, his struggle and the reason he needed to be searching. If you love road-trips, travel or beautiful landscape, the artistically shot photography will provide you with compelling and stunning visuals of America’s wonders.

In my opinion, the overall message this film sends is worth exposing oneself to. Careful planning and thought was put into each shot and the actors conveyed a believable and honest story.

“Somewhere West” left me thinking about the way I spend each and every moment as well as what I am truly in search of. I will say that this is not a film for everyone as it deals with a heavy subject matter, if you are in the mood for a light-hearted comedy, I do not think that the subtle comedic aspects will get you through the film. It pained me to watch as it dealt with such tragic theme but in the end I feel there was an inherently positive or at least hopeful undertone.

Somewhere West Screen Grab

“Somewhere West” left me curious to see where David K. Marek (the film’s writer, director, producer) will go in the future, as this has received such critical acclaim.

It has already scored a variety of awards from independent film festivals ranging from Best Feature Film to Best Cinematography to Best No Budget Feature.

After reading the back sleeve of the “Somewhere West” case I was impressed and appreciated what I saw in the film exponentially:

“With a production budget of $18,500 and shot in 29 consecutive days while traveling 4892 miles in an RV with a cast of 4 and a crew of 5, “Somewhere West” is a triumph of filmmaking ingenuity and collaboration. The production slept wherever they parked, ate and rehearsed while driving, showered at campgrounds and did laundry on the rare occasion that they stopped in a town for supplies. Shot chronologically, the cast and crew live the story of the film in real tiem and the result is evident in the subtle and authentic performances, as well as the attention and innovation of every shot in this unforgettable film.”

Check out the trailer below and you can visit their webpage for more video clips:


Hayley is studying journalism, politics and international media at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In between juggling school and various jobs, she makes time to snowboard, travel, write and craft. She surrounds herself with people that motivate and embrace her as she strives to make a difference in anyway she can. Follow her on twitter.


Read 2 Comments and Reply

Read 2 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elephant journal  |  Contribution: 1,375,690