This Is Love

This Is Love

***

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The title of This Is Love misleading - this is no piece of Hollywood fluff, but rather a German film, whose label is deliberately provocative when you consider much of its subject matter lurks under a shadow of paedophilia. In fact, This Is Obsession would be a more apt moniker, since it is less about the meeting of minds than about the way in which love can be one-sided, dangerous and vacillate between the passionate get-yer-kit off sort and the parental protective type, depending on who is in the viewing seat.

Obsessive/misguided love is a subject ripe for exploration and although he makes a fair stab at it, Matthias Glasner’s film lacks the structural stability to fully do it justice. The main problem is the film’s dual plots, which make uneasy bedfellows, so that although making tentative steps to address some big philosophical issues surrounding the subject of 'love', the end result feels more like a scattergun attack than a concentrated probe.

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The primary/stronger story – though not the first we are introduced to - concerns Chris (Jens Albinus) and his relationship with youngster Jenjira (Duyen Pham) – a girl he has just ‘rescued’ from human traffickers. When we meet him as he's quizzed by cops, he confesses to killing a man but when asked to reveal Jenjira’s whereabouts he stonewalls and refuses to eat.

It is his arrest that brings him into contact with Maggie (Corinna Harfouch) – who comes equipped with another plotline of love-gone-sour that’s so weighty it could easily have filled a film all on its own. She is carrying the burden of a long-ago abandonment by her husband, drowning out the echoes of it and saturating herself in booze on a daily basis.

Despite being permanently on the verge of falling-down-drunk – “Reality is an illusion created by a lack of alcohol,” Maggie insists - she, in one of several dubious pieces of plotting, has managed to hold down a job as a top policewoman and been given the job of interviewing Chris on his own. It is in the interview room where their stories meet, since it seems both of them are, in one way or another running away from, yet unable to escape their past.

And so the viewer is taken on a trip down these twin lanes of memory, which though sporadically gripping, are ultimately undone by the stories’ sheer complexity. Albinus is perfectly cast as the conflicted Chris and credit must go to Glasner for garnering such an excellent and carefully nuanced performance from young actress Pham, who manages to show the shocking mental divide that makes Jenjira simultaneously a vulnerable child and an experienced sex worker.

However, those troublesome plot problems aren’t confined to Maggie’s half of the story, with some of Chris’s narrative also failing to hang together quite as it should – not least the question of why child-trafficking gangsters, a crucial early motivator in the film, are unceremoniously ditched from the story part way through without any explanation.

The biggest problem, however, remains that of balance, ultimately the two halves of the plot – although containing interesting parallels about the often destructive nature of love – end up destroying the full impact of one another as they fight for screen time.

Reviewed on: 10 Oct 2009
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This Is Love packshot
A man who stole a nine-year-old from human traffickers forms an unusual relationship with a police inspector... as she interrogates him about a murder.
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