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While it’s a generally accepted good idea for writers to write what they know, the results can sometimes resemble self-indulgent navel gazing. Such is the case with the film starring, directed and scripted by real-life couple Alex Holdridge (In Search of a Midnight Kiss) and Linnea Saasen inspired by their own relationship. While this tale of a couple experiencing myriad romantic ups and downs has its occasional amusing and insightful moments, Meet Me in Montenegro doesn’t manage to render its characters’ foibles endearing.
Essentially playing themselves, Holdridge is Anderson, a struggling filmmaker looking for his next big break, and Saasen is Lina, a Norwegian dancer with whom he has a passionate fling when they meet in Berlin. They impulsively decide to travel together to the titular Balkan country where, among other things, she induces him to take a high dive off a cliff into the ocean, which he proclaims in an opening voice-over is “the last time I really felt alive.”
Unfortunately for him, the relationship ends as quickly as it began when she leaves him a note on the beach reading, “Let’s end on a high note.” Cut to three years later, with Anderson still pining for his lost love and once again traveling to Berlin to meet a famous actor (Jason Ritter) to pitch him a Hollywood film he’s written called “Supercollider.” Lo and behold, he re-encounters Lina and the pair rekindle their romance despite knowing they’ll have to part soon to pursue their respective careers on different continents.
A running subplot involves Anderson’s British friend Stephen (Rupert Friend of Homeland, soon to star in Hitman: Agent 47) and his German girlfriend Friederike (Jennifer Ulrich), whose attempts to revive their own moribund relationship involve proposed swinging and threesomes.
Even though Holdridge and Saasen co-wrote and directed, the film largely revolves around the perspective of Anderson who frequently narrates the proceedings. Both emerge as little more than stock types, with his neurotic insecurity contrasted with her pixie-like passion. And despite the skillful performances by Friend and Ulrich, their supporting characters are even more thinly drawn, with their relationship travails amounting to little more than a mild diversion.
Still, the film has its moments, from Anderson’s disastrous pitch meeting in which, instead of trying to sell the actor on his project, he regales him with the story of his romantic woes. There’s also a very funny episode when he goes on a desperate late night condom search during a religious holiday. Finding all of the stores closed, he’s reduced to asking strangers for help.
“I have never wanted to learn German so badly,” he comments via voiceover.
But somehow, for all the apparent authenticity on display, the film feels all too familiar in its plethora of indie rom-com conventions. It’s a marvelous travelogue: you’ll immediately want to book tickets to Montenegro and Berlin—after seeing it. But little else will linger in your memory.
Production: Good Viking Productions
Cast: Alex Holdridge, Linnea Saasen, Rupert Friend, Jennifer Ulrich
Directors/screenwriters/editors: Alex Holdridge, Linnea Saasen
Producers: Ineke Hagedom, Alex Holdridge, Linnea Saasen, Paul Young, Peter Principato, Chris Aagaard, Seth Caplan
Director of photography: Robert Murphy
Production designer: Megan Hutchison
Costume designers: Larissa Bechtold, Megan Hutchison
Composer: Stephen Coates
Not rated, 88 min.
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