The Space Between The Lines


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Space Between The Lines
"Jopp teases us with little connections which create visual and narrative consistency, whilst fleshing out a full existence for each character."

Meet Leo (Alexander Fehling). He's going through a messy break-up with girlfriend Marlene (Claudia Eisinger), who, to make matters worse, keeps drifting back into his life when he thinks he's found his feet, laving him continually unsettled. His sister's attempts to snap him out of it get nowhere. Sitting alone in his loft apartment listening to miserable songs doesn't really seem to help. Then one day he gets a message from an angry woman who has used his email address by mistake when trying to complain about a magazine subscription, and the two begin an impulsive correspondence that will change everything.

The woman is Emma (Nora Tschirner), who is - to the extent that she's thought about it - really quite contented with her life, married to conductor Bernhard (an excellent Ulrich Thomsen) and getting along well with his kids, whose mother died when they were young. To the surprise of both correspondents, however, their conversations start to get under their skin. The cracks in Emma's marriage start to show and she makes less and less effort to deal with them. Leo openly admits to his sister that he's falling for this stranger, even though he doesn't know what she looks like. We see them going about their daily lives in the same city, passing close to one another unawares. Leo is convinced that if he ever saw Emma he would recognise her straight away. But should they meet? To do so seems increasingly risky, and increasingly vital.

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A refreshing change from the myriad narratives that depict online connections as less meaningful or inherently deceptive, The Space Between The Lines, based on the first in a series of popular books, explores a situation which many viewers will be able to relate to based on experiences in their own lives, even if those involved friendship rather than romance. The bond between Leo and Emma grows as it does partly because both initially dismiss their contact as meaningless, so have their guard down. They share intimate thoughts (personal rather than sexual) because they feel that they are doing so anonymously, safely. in this way, the context of their conversations leads to something deeper and more honest than a traditional, in-person encounter.

Naturally, the format presents challenges for director Vanessa Jopp, who has revealed that the two leads had very little contact during filming despite the audience getting the impression that their characters are always on one another's minds. She has them voice their written messages so that we don't need to spend too much time looking at computers or phones, and finds inventive ways to have them move around whilst their conversations take place. This approach also lets us see more of the separate wolds they inhabit, whether it's Leo driving out along the rugged coastline and stopping by a windswept beach or Emma sleeping alone at night, bothered by the wind coming in through her window. Jopp teases us with little connections which create visual and narrative consistency, whilst fleshing out a full existence for each character, full of distinct people and pressures, that makes them feel more solid than most romance characters and emphasises what it at stake if they throw their responsibilities to the wind.

Though it's slow in places and could easily lose 20 minutes without the story suffering, this is a mature, thoughtful look at the nature of human relationships which benefits from sensitive acting all round. Viewers will be left wanting to know what happens next - but for that, for the meantime, you'll have to read the books.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2020
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The Space Between The Lines packshot
An accidental meeting online turns into a lengthy correspondence that comes to feel more and more important to the two people involved.

Director: Vanessa Jopp

Writer: Jane Ainscough, based on the book by Daniel Glattauer

Starring: Claudia Eisinger, Alexander Fehling, Piet Fuchs

Year: 2019

Runtime: 123 minutes

Country: Germany


Cheltenham 2020

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