Road trip films can be found in just about every genre of film out there. It’s easy to see the appeal, what with new scenery constantly surrounding your characters and the situation rife with opportunities for incident. Li Lu’s directorial debut, There Is a New World Somewhere, is a look at the emotional journey of protagonist Sylvia. However, it lacks any distinguishing characteristics and thus is easily lost to similar indie coming-of-age films that have come before it.
Sylvia is a lost twenty-something artist who finds herself back in her college town of Austin, Texas to attend the wedding of a college friend, forcing herself to awkwardly interact and lie about how successful she is back in New York City to friends she hasn’t seen in years. She meets Esteban at a pre-wedding party and they quickly hit if off, culminating in an invite to join him on his road trip. She impulsively accepts and before you know it the two are headed east to New Orleans.
As the two learn more about each other, their road trip paradise quickly begins to unravel. Both are obviously running away from their problems, problems that (of course) follow them to the open road. Unfortunately, it’s a story that feels like it’s already been told. Sad damaged girl meets a mysterious handsome man, they make an impulsive decision, and eventually realize that they’re still sad and damaged.
While the two leads, Agnes Bruckner and Maurice Compte, do a fine job, the two lack any sizzling chemistry, which only makes it harder to believe that Sylvia would take off from a city she just arrived in and ditch her friends. Coupled with her blatant disregard for the feelings of her friends, I found Sylvia and Esteban unlikeable from the beginning and thus it difficult to invest emotionally in either of them.
From the cinematography to the dialogue to the music, this screamed indie in a way we’ve all seen before. It’s fine to have pretty people on a road trip working through their emotions set to morose music, but if you can’t get the audience to invest in the characters then you’ve already lost. There Is a New World Somewhere is a fine film. But we’ve seen it all before and thus it’s ultimately forgettable.