Nowhere Near Review: A Psychological Time Traveling Journey

Nowhere Near Review: A Psychological Time Traveling Journey

Navigating Cultural Identity

In his most recent captivating documentary, “Nowhere Near,” avant-garde filmmaker Miko Revereza endeavors to cast a spiritually longing spotlight on his Filipino family. He delicately captures their journey in a desperate quest for a semblance of societal normalcy. While grappling with the search for his family’s true roots and navigating the pervasive influence of America’s imperialism, Revereza weaves a poignant international narrative. It underscores that delving into a complex past may sometimes be the only path toward an even more uncertain yet authentic future.

Traces of Home in a Foreign Land

From the explicit outset, showcasing close-up shots of Revereza’s relatives upon their arrival in the United States, viewers are immersed in a collage of cultural remnants that serve as a link to their ancestral lands. A pot simmering with native vegetables, a travel pamphlet offering a route back home, and an electronic device providing Filipino channels to the television—all evoke nostalgia. However, as the harsh reality sets in, these artifacts are disrupted.

A Journey Back to Roots

A nameless, ailing man rests on a small bed within the familial Los Angeles apartment. Without learning his identity, we follow Lola (Revereza’s grandmother), guided through the digital expanse of Google Maps by her son, in a quest to rediscover her long-forgotten childhood landmarks and pathways home. Though Lola’s words straddle between a spoiler and a foreshadowing, her eagerness to see her homeland and her bewilderment at its transformation blend comfort and heartbreak in a touching manner.

Nowhere Near Review: A Psychological Time Traveling Journey

The Impact of Immigration Policy

In the wake of the events post-September 11th, 2001, the U.S. adopted stringent immigration controls for a period. DACA later emerged as a step toward legalization. Against this backdrop, Revereza highlights the impact on his mother, who embarks on a journey to the Midwest in search of stable employment, devoid of proper documentation. The glittering screens, flashy neon, and electronic allure within the Mall of America are revealed as hollow commercialism, starkly contrasting with the values of the Revereza family. The film suggests that this family never received the crucial work permit due to the aftermath of 9/11. Encouraged by his mother’s assertion that other families seem to possess it, viewers follow our cameraman’s determined quest for the same attorney. Confronted by a first-floor security guard, the elderly man from earlier reappears, now superimposed with the turbulent currents of an LA reservoir, symbolizing his suffocation. Revereza masterfully juxtaposes the concrete and the abstract once more.

Symbolism and Metaphor

This is juxtaposed with images of overcrowded fish tanks and haunting, flowing instrumental music, serving as metaphors for the family’s predicament (shared by numerous undocumented individuals facing similar challenges). “Nowhere Near” takes an unexpected turn, culminating in a return to the Philippines. The country is treated as a beacon of clarity in their time of need.

Rediscovering the Past

While the use of Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” and John Dahl’s “The Great Raid” as framing devices may weaken the portrayal of this new setting, Lola regains prominence, being the one with the deepest recollection of how the past was structured. She first mourns the once abundant mango groves now replaced by the established McArthur Highway. Both Lola and viewers discover that this might not be the haven they envisioned. Lola unwittingly assumes the role of the main character, her natural reactions permeating the air with restrained tension.

The Quest for Ancestral Memories

Through dimly lit and shaky footage, a local church sets the scene for Lola’s search and rescue mission with her son and a nun, upon learning that her grandfather’s tomb has been relocated. They find his memorial now beneath a dusty organ. While one could speculate on the reasons behind this, the presence of bats in the rafters signals the end of this arduous endeavor. It’s as if Revereza understood that this conflict wouldn’t provide a resolution, recognizing his elder relatives lacked the fortitude to navigate the cobwebs. Before reaching the next fateful destination, sequential and haunting images link Lola on the beach to the landing of American forces at the end of World War II.

Confronting Displacement

Arriving at their old residence, Lola is confounded by the abundance of fruit trees and unable to locate the one she yearns for the most. “Nowhere Near” unleashes all the evolving grief it can muster, striking the audience with emotional force. Yet, just like the scene at the old sanctuary, any potential weighty conversation with other relatives is disrupted by a sudden downpour. The family’s perpetual state of identity ambiguity, induced by immigration turmoil, mirrors the viewer’s own unfulfilled yearning.

Fragmentation of Immigration

In a final act of exploration, Revereza and his relatives arrive at the cemetery where Lola seeks her father’s remains. Once again, she’s bewildered by the unyielding march of time. The film doesn’t stray far for the poignant melancholy this realization brings. A lone dog scavenging along paths somewhere in the family’s weathered farm. A solitary grill sheltered by a sun-soaked umbrella stands on the fringes of a local festival. While Revereza’s monologue on the deliberate significance of film editing may seem somewhat abrupt in this context, two sound bites—one imploring a return to the States, the other an enthusiastic local grape vendor—cleverly underscore the fragmentation experienced by immigrants, people divided by geography.

Perpetually Caught Between Worlds

Ultimately, “Nowhere Near” reveals a dormant struggle from both sides of this Filipino family. From unreliable lawyers to the fledgling DACA program and the erosion of familiarity due to modernization in their homeland, it presents a poignant psychological tale of not merely living in a world, but being perpetually suspended between two.

Nowhere Near Review: A Psychological Time Traveling Journey


1. What is the central theme of “Nowhere Near”?

“Nowhere Near” explores the complex journey of a Filipino family striving to find societal normalcy while grappling with their roots and the influence of American imperialism.

2. How does the film depict cultural remnants?

The film uses visual elements like native cooking, travel materials, and electronic devices to evoke nostalgia and connection to the family’s ancestral lands.

3. What historical events shape the narrative?

The aftermath of September 11th, 2001, and the subsequent immigration policy changes significantly impacted the family’s struggle for stability and acceptance in the United States.

4. How does the film address the contrast between materialism and immigrant values?

The film showcases the Revereza family’s discomfort with American commercialism, highlighting the stark contrast between American materialism and the values held by immigrant families.

5. Why does the family decide to return to the Philippines?

The film suggests that reconnecting with their roots in the Philippines is seen as a way to find clarity and meaning in a time of uncertainty.

6. How does the film incorporate symbolism and metaphor?

Images of overcrowded fish tanks and haunting instrumental music serve as metaphors for the challenges faced by undocumented individuals, providing a deeper layer of meaning to the narrative.

7. What role does Lola play in the story?

Lola, Revereza’s grandmother, emerges as a central character, providing a deep emotional connection to the family’s past and their search for identity.

8. How does the film address displacement and change?

The film navigates the family’s struggle with displacement, particularly in scenes where ancestral landmarks have been altered or displaced, reflecting the broader theme of change.

9. What are the key moments of emotional intensity in the film?

The film reaches emotional peaks during Lola’s search for her grandfather’s tomb, as well as in scenes where the family confronts the evolving landscape of their old residence.

10. How does “Nowhere Near” address the broader issue of immigration?

The film touches on the challenges faced by undocumented immigrants, shedding light on the struggles and fragmented experiences that individuals and families go through when caught between different worlds.

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