By Janine Gericke.
Matthew Brown’s Maine is a quiet, observational film, in every sense. Not a word is uttered for nearly the first 10 minutes of the film and there is minimal dialogue from that point on. We mostly hear sounds of the wind, insects chirping, the ocean or a waterfall. The film revolves mainly around two characters, Bluebird (Laia Costa) and Lake (Thomas Mann) who meet while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Though they meet many people along the way, the story stays with Bluebird and Lake and shows their growing connection. Maine is a slow journey, but if you just sit back and let it unfold, you might be pleasantly surprised.
The film does not offer any exposition. It opens with Bluebird naked in the ocean, letting the waves push and pull her. At first, she seems to be all alone, with the camera closely watching her. When Lake enters the picture several minutes in, we aren’t sure if they are together or total strangers. The two met while hiking and have grown very comfortable around each other. They go through their daily routines, mostly in silence, with the occasional laugh or look. As Bluebird and Lake hike together, we see these gorgeous backdrops: lush woods and rolling hills, fields with horses, crisp blue skies. Once the dialogue picks up, you quickly sense the growing tension between Bluebird and Lake. When fellow hikers mistake them for a couple, Bluebird is quick to correct the assumption. Bluebird is actually married and didn’t expect to meet someone on this hike, let alone someone that she is so drawn to. As the film goes on, you can see the conflict unfold between Lake and Bluebird. There is a lot that is not being said, but their body language says so much. Lake asks Bluebird questions about herself, eager for any tidbit of information, but she doesn’t ask him about his life. She makes comments about how she wanted to hike with Lake, not because she needed to be with someone.
Watching Maine made me think about reasons why people embark on these hikes. It seems that there is a lot of time for contemplation and introspection. Because we as viewers are thrown into this story without any background knowledge, we feel just as lost as Bluebird and Lake. We are trying to figure out why they are on this trip and what has brought them together. I think I enjoyed the film more because I wasn’t given an explanation. Costa and Mann’s performances are nuanced and genuine and the cinematography captures the landscape so well, really placing you on those trails with the characters with long lingering shots.
Bluebird began this trek on her own, and though she meets Lake and they have a connection, she seems disappointed in herself for not embarking solely on her own. She keeps Lake at arm’s length, dodging many of his questions and the two try very hard to dismiss their mutual feelings. Once the film was over, I was left with some questions. Outside of this hike, would these two characters ever end up together? Is this relationship just an escape? What happens when they go their separate ways? Ultimately, this is Bluebird’s journey of self discovery. Not much happens in Maine (on the surface), but it does give you something to think about.
Maine is now available on VOD.
Janine Gericke is a Film International ‘In the Field’ writer.