Tulip (Lilit Lesser) and Finn (Josefine Glæsel) are two teenagers, burdened by their demons, who spend their free time drinking their sorrows away. Together, they share an emotional journey, culminating in a shocking revelation. Shot in strikingly, singular grey palettes, the film offers little mercy, as it journeys into the unknown terrain, ably capturing the essence of early adulthood. It’s not necessarily a crowd-pleasing film, but it is a very good one, not least from the central two leads. The film ultimately is less concerned with providing closure as it is centred on the personal growth of the central characters.
We see two teenagers who embark on an alcoholic fuelled journey. An attraction grows between them, which is a struggle for Finn, who is currently questioning her gender identity. Tulip is in a stronger place in life, and enjoys the day they spend together: racing through the park, sneaking into dance halls and smoking on the beaches. What she doesn’t know is that Finn was abused by her uncle, which complicates the attraction growing between the two teenagers. But together, they spend a day re-tracing their childhood beats (in one of the film’s more enjoyable moments, we see the two characters enjoying themselves on park swings), Tulip finds the courage to speak out her truth, and enjoy love as it’s meant to be enjoyed.
Astor-Lewis centres on London, showcasing a city that’s far removed from the sprawling, metropolitan jungle often portrayed on other films. This is a London that’s as daunting as any city in the UK, a place strangely alien in the realm of cinema. If anything, it’s a truer depiction of London, ripping down the glamour for something harder and more realistic: this is the perfect environment for two adolescents to find themselves. Behind the metal bridges and barren pathways, come two individuals hoping to butterfly after they have cast off the shackles of oppression with alcohol.
The two leads are excellent, offering warmth to a film that could easily have turned into an extended episode of Eastenders (Lesser’s vulnerable adolescent is the winner by a hair’s breadth), and although they both have their individual arcs, their scenes together offers clarity and cohesion to a London that offers little of it. Lesser, who introduced mood aplenty in The Queen’s Gambit, plays nicely off the more animated Glæsel, pinning down a strict code of details that illustrates a life. According to the director, the film was always based on the dynamics between two garrulous leads (that it’s a queer love story is just a side note), and the drama is pieced together in a Neorealistic manner. It’s as if we are witnessing the romance/friendship occurring in real time, and watching the teenagers fumble over a cigarette is a nice little detail that will resonate with anyone who has ever picked up a light.
If you have two great actors and a great director, you will probably lget a good movie, although the thematic undertones might be a bit much for some teenagers. There is too much going on for such a short duration (it’s not even 90 minutes long), and invariably, the tone is a little grim for audiences aching for something bouncy for June. But there’s no denying the film’s humanity, or the one-liners (a pointed ““Do you think my shoes are going to get dirty?” is uttered at the beach), which ripple from the screen.
Although the film follows a strict code for the majority of the runtime, Astor-Lewis breaks her rules for the closing moments, piecing together a climax that’s directed with kaleidoscopic yellow lights pouring over the two characters who debate whether or not they should spend the night together. What isn’t important is the answer, but the questions and character beats that have led the two to this sparkly lit scene. Beautiful.
To Nowhere is in cinemas across the nation on Friday, June 30th.