VENICE 2015 – Go With Me (2015)
If Go With Me were a meal, it would be the kind you have at a motorway service station. It’s as guaranteed to get the job done as it is to fade immediately from memory. There is nothing particularly wrong with Daniel Alfredson’s pacific north-west thriller nor is there anything even close to resembling a fresh idea. Dark and moody by numbers, it gets from A to B in the shortest possible time, allowing everyone to continue on with their day.
So what have we got going on in this remote logging town where the sun never seems to show? There’s a steely Julia Stiles, recently moved back into the area after escaping all the way to Seattle, trying to find someone to rid her of Blackway’s (Ray Liotta) harassment. Unfortunately for Stiles’ Lillian, Blackway seems to have built something of a local legend around himself. The best the sheriff can offer on proof of a decapitated cat is a warning to get out of town. The second best is directions to a logging site where she might find a tough guy to do the job he’s too afraid to.
She doesn’t find the guy she expected. Instead, troubled Lester (Anthony Hopkins) and his quiet and self-conscious protégé Nate (Alexander Ludwig) decide to help, leading them on a trail of misinformation in the local area before the inevitable showdown occurs. There are minor attempts to add colour to the characters, usually through bland flashbacks, and plenty of opportunity to exchange cod-profound statements on the nature of their mission as they drive around in Nate’s sturdy pick-up. Beyond that, and the usual macho culture that leaves Stiles helpless when it counts, there’s not a whole lot going on.
At least no one feels inclined to drag it out. There’s zero build-up to Lillian’s predicament, the opening scene showing Blackway turning up, already a familiar figure, to menace her at night. That little intro, combined with the dutifully sinister score, establishes straight up she has a problem. From here, no one takes time to decide anything. Everyone acts at the same steady pace, never fast but never with doubt. It allows an easy march through Lester’s mini-manhunt, right through a competently managed finale.
Stiles, despite having very little to do, is the most watchable of the four main characters. She’s got a bit of spark in her, perhaps the only spark in the film. Hopkins ambles around as the kindly curmudgeon he can trot out when required, and Ludwig is basically a friendly lump of meat kept around to take and give out beatings. Liotta’s the real missed opportunity. The film cries out for a nasty villain, yet seems content to leave Blackway sneering in the shadows. He’s barely in it, a mythical figure for the inhabitants of the town whom we never seeing doing anything remotely close to mythical. Unless insulting the recently bereaved and groping young women is what counts for mythical in these parts.
Maybe it does. It’s certainly an uninspiring setting. Where the north-west setting has proved an active participant in better stories, here it’s all under-lit rows of trees covered in fog. Alfredson seems content to film the pick-up driving through winding roads from anonymous site to anonymous site. Like everything else here, it’s about as bare-bones as can be. Go With Me entertains for a spell and disappears quietly. What was it all about? I’ve forgotten already.
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Stars: Julia Stiles, Anthony Hopkins, Alexander Ludwig