The Place of No Words review – a dying father’s magical travels with his son

This film is a charming family affair. Director Mark Webber stars with his wife Teresa Palmer and their son Bodhi, in a magical realist story that feels at once awe-inspiring and intimate. A dying father struggles to communicate to his young son about matters of life and death and, through storytelling, the parents concoct a fantastical tale of a Viking father-and-son duo who go on adventures and encounter mysterious creatures, all while wearing enormous fur coats.

The film ingeniously alternates between a cramped hospital room and the vast, lush imaginary world where the father is no longer confined to his sickbed but instead roams around with his son on heroic quests. Patrice Lucien Cochet’s cinematography is especially inspiring in the Viking portion: the sombre grey sky, the rocky paths, the patches of green moss, all come beautifully together and add an austerity to the quirky details of this magical world. The childlike nature of the quests is endearing, as the pair waddle through a farting swamp or cross paths with monsters that sneeze massive snots. The visuals in these segments are impressive, yet the content is wonderfully attuned to the kind of impromptu stories that parents tell their children before bedtime.

The film’s weakness lies in the “reality” sequences; in contrast to the engaging playfulness of the magical scenes, the scenes between the grownups are overly maudlin. Bodhi Palmer is still the one adorable constant: within a relatively freeform story and in the company of his parents, Bodhi doesn’t even seem to perform. He just is, and it is a joy to watch.

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