‘This Must Be The Place’ is about Sean Penn doing his finest Robert Smith impersonation. Just kidding... sort of. Sean Penn is Cheyenne, an aging Robert Smith-esque goth rocker living in the artist tax haven of Dublin with his wife of 35 years Jane (Frances McDormand). Bored, depressed and burdened by the impact his music has had on the world (including two fans that took their own lives by his words), Cheyenne now spends his days pottering around town in full make-up while at the same time trying to ignore his celebrity. When his estranged father dies, Cheyenne travels back to New York to say his goodbyes. While at the funeral, his cousin informs him that Cheyenne’s father spent the better part of his life trying to track down a Nazi who humiliated him at Auschwitz. Now it’s up to Cheyenne to finish what the father he hardly knew started. So after meeting a Texan businessman at a Teppanyaki restaurant (bear with me), he agrees to drive the man's car back to Texas - but not before indulging in the scenic self-discovery route on his way to track down said 95-year-old Nazi.
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE - TRAILER
It’s the film's messy and convoluted journey from point A to point B that lets it down, with too many balls in the air when its base character can contribute so much on his own without all the superfluous fluff. The film's sub-plots - including a friendship between Cheyenne and a young fan Mary (Irish new-comer Eve Hewson) - are sweet but confusing at best.
As for Penn’s performance... While odd and irratic, his Cheyenne is utterly appealing although it's difficult to pinpoint why. His squeaky baby-like voice can be grating but is often the source of laugh-out-loud one liners. Cheyenne isn’t shy on intelligence either, but is comes out as innocent, naive and almost adolescent, contributing to the character's never ending supply of endearing qualities.
By far, the best thing the film has got going is its infectious Talking Heads-based soundtrack provided by their frontman David Byrne.
By far, the best thing the film has got going is its infectious Talking Heads-based soundtrack provided by their frontman David Byrne, who also makes an all-too-brief appearance as himself in the film with a live performance of the film’s title track. Byrne also wrote the film’s score, placing his unmistakable stamp on every note.
Serving as a hypothetical “Where are they now?” film, this is one to be enjoyed by music lovers of ‘The Cure’ and ‘Talking Heads’ era.