Charlie Countryman

Charlie Countryman

[Destined for Sight & Sound until the film was wisely pulled from UK release altogether.]

Immediately after his less-than-stellar mother’s death, Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf) has a nice chat with her disembodied spirit. She (Melissa Leo) apologizes for her terrible parenting (“I was always wrapped up in my own crap”) and tells him to go to Bucharest. There, through a series of weakly “wacky” incidents, Charlie falls in love with Romanian cellist Gabi Ibanescu (Evan Rachel Wood, whose accent and bowing are equally unconvincing). She’s involved with mentally unstable mobster Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen), but Charlie adapts with unconvincing speed to navigate the underworld, defeat the bad guy in unequal combat and get the girl.

Adverts veteran and first-time feature director Fredrik Bond’s cited Lovers On The Bridge and Trainspotting as aspirational reference points but fails to attain similarly forceful effects. Shia LaBeouf is visibly, undeservedly impressed with himself and unsuited for the sympathetic center of an exuberant, over-the-top romance. His moments of crazed abandon fall with an audible thunk into the realm of sub-Garden State quirk (“We can do anything. We can eat pancakes!”). There’s a lot of running (individually and as a couple) through the streets, which comes off less like the exhilaration of youth and more like LaBeouf trying to keep in Transformers-worthy shape. Often serving as a cheaply anonymous urban stand-in for Hollywood productions, Bucharest is named but allotted little independent character, serving primarily as the English-speaking staging ground for a vapid American’s drug- and ego-fueled epiphanies.