“Maine” is a film lost in the wilderness. The second feature from director Matthew Brown attempts to shift his filmmaking from simple indie material to accessible art through a narrative recalling something not unlike Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Wild.”
The film documents a woman named Bluebird (Laia Costa) and a man named Lake (Thomas Mann), both twentysomethings, traveling along the Appalachian Trail. They relish in their sentiments of solitude, with the winding but ostensibly endless trails of their venture reflective of the uncertainty and downright confusion of navigating adulthood. It should be noted post haste that this journey is a stunner: the cinematography by Donald R. Monroe is bound to take some breaths away, hyphenating the beauty of this trail and juxtaposing it with the sullen feelings of these characters. However, this beauty is ultimately hollow, as “Maine” proposes a poetic look at finding oneself through both the outside and through others, but falters in materializing its core.
If “Maine” were evaluated solely on its aforementioned to be visuals, it would likely be considered a flat-out masterpiece. Monroe guides the behemoth of natural beauty with intense care: a number of the tracking shots can be described as being as smooth as silk. It wouldn’t be hyperbolic to say that these images look as though they could’ve been ripped straight from an Audubon magazine. It’s an especially staggering achievement for what is an undoubtedly lo-fi fare, and there’s more to the camerawork than documenting overtly gorgeous nature. The shots when Lake and Bluebird interact are intimate and raw, too. These scenes define the overwhelming beauty of the film: they give it form.
But where the film has visual spectacle in spades, it lacks in narrative intrigue. Figuratively –– and sometimes literally –– lost, Lake and Bluebird are characters perhaps searching to come of age when the period to come of age has passed them by. Both Costa and Mann are genuinely decent in these roles, with the former shining particularly in some emotional moments toward the film’s conclusion. However, their competency does not alleviate the occasional vapidness of the dialogue. It’s evident both of them are withholding deep personal secrets, but when these are unveiled it cannot help but feel overshadowed by the seemingly meaningless conversations that came prior. This lack of development hinders the short runtime of the film as well, with its 85-minute length crawling on to a conclusion that slaps the spectator out of nowhere.
All this being said, “Maine” is a film that highlights exciting potential. Brown articulates intriguing thoughts about connectivity between humans and nature and ourselves. But perhaps highlighting the pangs of a sophomore cinematic session, it’s an uneven balancing act of awesome aesthetics meshed with narrative malnourishment. Not unlike the characters it portrays, it’s a film that could’ve used a map to guide its journey to a more cohesive, and simply satisfying, conclusion.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 30 print edition. Email Matthew Holman at [email protected].