Anywhere But Here

7 out of 10


A Compelling Drama

A flashy and opinionated, but insecure school teacher, Adele August (Susan Sarandon) runs away from small town Bay City, Wisconsin to Beverly Hills, California in hopes of giving both Ann, her 14 year old daughter (Natalie Portman) and herself a chance at success and happiness. This is however to no avail as Ann has her own plans, despite having to spend most of her time looking out for her flighty mother.

Based on the novel by Mona Simpson (sister of Steven Jobs, founder of Apple and Pixar), it has been adapted by screenwriter Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People, Other People's Money, Spiderman 2), the dialogue is clever and sharp, exploring not only the pains of Portman's teenage years but also the trauma of middle age as Sarandon seeks to reinvent herself. Sargent pens a compelling drama, in which both actors carry off their roles with perfection.

With both women abandoned by Ann's father, the movie shines light upon the effects of divorce and separation with the changing appearance of the nuclear family in contemporary America. As Adele jumps from one job and one place to another with a series of failed relationships and Ann clings to the hope of a normal life; they learn how to let go and how to respect each other's individuality.

Sober and down-to-earth, Portman proves she can easily carry not only the part of Ann but also match the veteran Sarandon in both focus and intensity; with the rapport between the two creating a spellbinding atmosphere. The level of frustration and pain in their clashes is realistic and seamlessly captured through insightful direction by Hong Kong born Wang, no stranger to change and moving home. Also effective are supporting performances by Eileen Ryan, Corbin Allred (as Ann's boyfriend Peter) and John Diehl; and likewise bit roles by now famous Thora Birch, Ashley Johnson, Sharona Alperin (the original inspiration for the Kinks "My Sharona") and Shawn Hatosy as Ann's beloved Cousin Benny.

Fitting location shots, intimate moments and moving situations, Anywhere but Here is stirring, genuine and complete with the famous title track by KD Lang.

Clever and sharp

Film Critic:Jenny M Lilles