Quirky self-discovery comedies are a difficult to pull off. They go like this: A guy or girl suffers a tragedy/existential crisis and is compelled to go on a trip where they will learn their true purpose in life and meet their destiny. Along the way they meet wise men and gurus who have it all figured out and who give the main character a gentle nudge in the right direction. They also meet a soul mate who has the potential to change their life, but they must make the right choices. Usually, a villain or massive obstacle gives the hero the final push they need to triumph in the end or fail and learn a harsh lesson about life. The newly released indie film “Charlie Countryman” follows this formula to the letter, but it doesn't come very close to mastering it.
Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf) is facing an existential crisis. Since his mother (Melissa Leo) died, he is seeing – or hallucinating – that the recently dead speak to him and give him life advice. In the case of his mother, she advises him to get over his grief by running off to Bucharest. On the way, he makes fast friends with his seatmate, Victor (Ion Caramitru), leading to a series of seemingly random coincidences that results in Charlie falling in love with Victor's cello-playing daughter Gabi (a nearly unrecognizable Evan Rachel Wood). Unfortunately, Gabi is involved with the seedy gangster Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen) who doesn't take kindly to Charlie's presence. During his stay, Charlie runs across many eccentric and menacing characters who always impart some sort of guru-like philosophy on Charlie. In the end, it will be Charlie's foolhardy actions that will define the remainder of his life.