"“A highly enjoyable and amusing feature, with strong performances throughout, complete with a good story. Albeit a little strange…”"

When hearing that the two lead roles in a film are the infallible Sean Penn and Frances McDormand, it’s fair to say my expectations were raised, and fortunately, This Must Be the Place didn’t let me down.

Airing at the London Film Festival, Paolo Sorrentino’s first English-speaking feature is one to be proud of. It tells the tale of retired and wealthy rock star Cheyenne (Sean Penn), who, residing in Ireland, has become jaded and bored with life, until he hears that his father, living in America, is nearing death.

The former star, now resembling an Ozzy Osbourne type figure, flies to America to see his father before he passes, only to arrive too late. However, his return back home is to be put on hold as he embarks on a journey to fulfil a desire of his father’s (who is of Jewish heritage), and track down an ex-Nazi war criminal, Aloise Lange (Heinz Lieven). The now elderly man, who tormented his father in Auschwitz during World War two, is now a refugee hiding in the States.

It’s quite an odd film, caught somewhere between two genres. When based in Ireland, it’s a comical account of an aging rock star who took a few too many drugs in his time, following his attempt to take on his now tedious life. Although as Cheyenne crosses the Atlantic, and embarks on his outlandish expedition, the film takes on a different stance, becoming more poignant and momentous. In that respect, it almost feels like two separate films.

But if there is one thing that remained consistent throughout it was the wonderful performance by Penn. Arguably the greatest character actor in the world, it seems that there is no-one this man can’t play. He wouldn’t have been the first choice that sprang to mind to play a lipstick wearing, washed up musician, but he does so fantastically.

Almost like a mixture of Ozzy Osbourne and Robert Smith of the Cure, complete with the voice of Michael Jackson, Penn steals the show, and the scenes between Cheyenne and his wife, Jane (Frances McDormand), are brilliantly funny, as they somehow manage to make their odd relationship (she’s a relatively normal figure – working as a fire fighter) seem right. Highlighted greatly in the wonderful bathroom scene where they are both grooming themselves, before Cheyenne ingenuously asks, “Why is Lady Gaga?”

I can see how the film could be criticised for being too haphazard and perhaps disbelievable, but I felt it suited the nature of the production. We were following proceedings through the eyes of a mentally unstable and seemingly damaged individual, and the randomness and eccentric scenarios, as well as the various unexplained characters that keep popping in, all seems quite precise, as if we, the audience, are experiencing life from Cheyenne’s perspective.

If I have one criticism of the feature, it’s the frequency of live musical performances. I’m not a great believer of watching live music in films, and in this instance it felt somewhat forced. There are a couple of live performances from real musicians, which just comes across as shameless promotion and doesn’t actually have anything to do with the film whatsoever. They just seem so unnecessary.

But that aside, it’s a highly enjoyable and amusing feature, with strong performances throughout, complete with a good story. Albeit a little strange. And if Sean Penn dressed up and looking like a gothic transvestite isn’t enough to sell it to you, I don’t know what is.