It's entirely unfair to Ann-Kristin Reyels' sophomore film that her premise - a young German couple hitting a bump in their relationship while holidaying in the sun - has so much in common with Maren Ade's Everyone Else, as both films are very much their own beasts. Advantage, however, would always go to Ms. Ade's film, for no other reason that it's the better, more accomplished feature.

     Ms. Reyels' set-up has Berlin couple Nina (Sabine Timoteo) and Ben (Thure Lindhardt) traveling to the Balearic isle of Formentera to spend a vacation with his surrogate family, a tight-knit foursome of German expats still living the peace-and-love dream of their youth who have never returned home. The realization there may be something else in Ben's mind, as he is increasingly drawn back to the carefree lifestyle of his elders, disturbs Nina, who feels ill at ease with the laid-back mood, misses their child and resents what she sees as a seduction job on Ben by modern-day hippy Mara (Vicky Krieps). A sudden twist as Mara disappears after an all-night party introduces the tension that propels the film's second-half, a sense that, after feeling left out from Ben's family circle, Nina is now the one with a secret and with the power over Ben.

     But Formentera takes too long to get here and the path is somewhat under-scripted in the early scenes, making tricky for the viewer to identify who these people are, and undermining some of the narrative turns that follow. None of this affects the very fine performances of the cast nor the attention Ms. Reyels devotes to the actors and to the Formentera landscape, harshly but cleverly lensed by Henner Besuch, but her portrait of a flailing relationship is somewhat looser than it wants to be, and is ultimately too fragile to stand on its own two feet.

Sabine Timoteo, Thure Lindhardt, Ilse Ritter, Tatka Seibt, Christian Brückner, Geoffrey Layton, Vicky Krieps, Franc Bruneau, Finn-Henry Reyels.
     Director, Ann-Kristin Reyels; screenplay, Ann-Kristin Reyels, Katrin Milhahn, Antonia Rothe, Anke Stelling; cinematography (colour), Henner Besuch; music, Henry Reyels, Marco Baumgartner; art director, Peter Weiss; costumes, Manfred Schneider; editor, Halina Daugird; producer, Titus Kreyenberg (Unafilm in co-production with ZDF/das Kleinefernsehspiel, ARTE and The Post Republic), Germany, 2012, 92 minutes.
     Screened: IndieLisboa 2012 advance screener, Lisbon, April 12th 2012. 


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