Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

"Only really comes alive in the last ten minutes." | Photo: Courtesy of KVIFF

With a relentlessly unsympathetic lead character (played by German theatrical legend Corinna Harfouch) and a narrative that only really comes alive in the last ten minutes, it is difficult to warm to Jan-Ole Gerster's latest.

The director, who kickstarted his reputation with A Coffee In Berlin (Oh Boy) (presented at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2012), has difficulty shaking off the narrative’s theatrical constraints.

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Harfouch’s Lara is celebrating her 60th birthday. She hopes that the culmination of the day will be her protegé son Viktor giving a solo piano recital with one of his own compositions in the repertoire.

The young man’s career has always been his overly protective mother’s main focus. He tries to keep out of her way and ignores her repeated attempts to rekindle the relationship until she decides to put a plan in place to sort out matters.

She lives in a depressing flat and despite an unforgiving exterior manages to maintain a friendship with a neighbour - a kindly cab driver (André Jung). The action takes place over a day during which we get to know more about Lara and her rather drab existence.

Living life through her son, she proceeds to buy up more than 30 remaining tickets for the concert and dishes them out to friends and acquaintances and former work colleagues.

It becomes clear as the film progresses that Lara is exerting a powerful psychological sway over her son whose girlfriend Johanna (a violinist, played by Mala Emde) finds herself on the receiving end of one of Lara’s barbed tirades. Johanna hurries off, quite understandably upset.

We discover also that at one stage Lara was a talented pianist and perhaps her frustration has to do with her lack of a direct outlet for her creativity. The scene is set for an arresting finale that provides the dramatic sparks notably missing from most of the film. Its theatrical structure indicates that it might all work better on stage.

Reviewed on: 03 Jul 2019
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Lara has just turned 60; it’s a very special day that will culminate in a career-defining piano concert given by her son. Viktor remains elusive, however, and his mother’s repeated attempts to get through to him come to nothing.

Director: Jan-Ole Gerster

Writer: Blaz Kutin

Starring: Tom Schilling, Corinna Harfouch, Hildegard Schroedter, Susanne Bredehöft, Steffen Jürgens, Tina Pfurr, Stephan Taubert

Year: 2019

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: Germany

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