She’s in Portland (Carlini, 2020): United States

Reviewed by Matheus Clorado. Viewed at the SBIFF 2020.

Image result for shes in portlandA visual tribute to the Pacific Coast Highway, She’s in Portland is the stunning feature-length debut from Marc Carlini. It is an invitation to join two longtime friends Wes (Tommy Dewey) and Luke (François Arnaud) on a road trip aboard an old Bronco as they reconnect.

The characters are introduced in their element, both funny and relatable. Luke is frustrated with his job and love life so much that he distanced himself from Wes. After attending a reunion Luke missed, Wes decides to get his attention back by driving him to Portland, where his former crush now lives and appears to still hold feelings for him. Trapped in their patterns, the sense of urgency picks up and their longing for escape is well set right from the start.

In a true love quest for his friend whom he considered broken and out of touch, Wes discovers that he is also been illuding himself. Although Luke was dodging his friend’s best intentions to cheer him up, Wes has instead chose to lie about his troubles. Through dialogue, their chemistry takes off from the bad cop/good cop tactic to a much richer level. Luke and Wes could be mirrored images of each other. Peeking at each other’s grass, they hope for greener hues, yet neglect their own lawn. In the midst of his resistance, Luke does not notice the meaning of this trip to Wes who is tormented by his past and unsure if he will be able to save his marriage.

Don’t let Portland trick you for lightness. The film goes deep when it needs to. Editing captures the dreamlike state of falling in love and its fragility, achieving magical moments such as the slow-motion scenes of the leads dancing with their temporary lovers by the shore. It matures its comment on love gradually. It’s possible to witness the humor giving way to seriousness, shifting the film into a psychological romantic drama. “It’s about finding each other at the end,” declares a stranger to an unsettled Wes inquiring about marriage.

After a packed screening at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, producer Oren Skoog (Bones) commented on challenges such as weather issues during shooting, while Carlini pointed out his love for the coastal highway and how he always knew that would be essential in the movie, and Dewey recalled his awe at the Isla Vista college community near the UC in Santa Barbara, part of Skoog’s education.

She’s in Portland represents the pursuit of love and ultimately, of happiness. The boys coming to terms with each other relies on them coming to terms with themselves, then transforming their romantic lives. More than reaching the destination, true value is created from the journey there.

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