With simple drawings, a lot of silent frames and not much exposition, Juan Berrio’s graphic novel Seven Places Without You leaves a lot of space for you to consider what Elena is going though as she deals with a break-up with her boyfriend Jorge. There’s not a lot more to the story than this, but inevitably, faced with how Elena is reacting to the situation, you are given to consider how you might behave in a similar situation.
Initially, it seems that Elena has little choice but to move on and start to consider the world and the places she visits in a new light as places without Jorge. She actually seems quite passive about the idea, accepting that Jorge essentially seems to have abandoned her, leaving her in an awkward position of living with his parents. Perhaps there’s been more building towards the break-up or perhaps Elena has indeed been too passive, but without any angry words being aired, Elena knows that it’s probably time to get used to life without Jorge.
She takes up an offer to stay with her friends Nacho and Maria, has to endure a party that they are throwing at their place, feeling awkward and out of place, the lively atmosphere only emphasising her loneliness and despondency. And that’s the general the tone throughout, Elena looking forlorn, staring into space, unable to sleep, trying to get up the desire to move on. The seven places then are much as you would expect, dealing with well-meaning family and friends as they try to help her along, looking for an apartment, trying to regain a sense of herself without Jorge in her life.
It’s a simple story and simply drawn, often static and minimal, with lots of silent mood-setting panels, reminiscent of Seth (It’s a Good Life if you don’t Weaken, Clyde Fans) in its mainly sepia and blue colouration, but closer in style and content to Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve), particularly his earlier short works. Berrio however is able to do much more with mood and pacing, creating an almost invisible sense of movement, a slow-progression one maybe, that is as much an internal process as a physical one. There are seven chapters in Seven Places Without You, and not all of them are without Jorge, but I guess the title is not quite so literal and the essential place that Elena has to come to terms with Jorge not being there is within herself.
Seven Places Without You by Juan Berrio is published in English translation in Ebook format by Europe Comics.
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