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Maria von Heland
Anna Maria Mühe,
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From the Oscar-Winning Director of "Nowhere In Africa"
The Toronto Film Festival was seen by some as not containing very many home runs, especially after the litany of great movies from last year, from "No Country...", "Juno", "Michael Clayton" to "Into the Wild" and "Atonement". But I submit that this year was top-heavy in foreign Oscar potential, from "Waltz With Bashir" to "Gomorra" to this wonderful drama.
Caroline Link is a first-rate director all the way now with this follow-up to "Nowhere in Africa". You watch this movie and you're sucked in after about 10 minutes and you have the feeling that the director is totally in control and everything is running on all cylinders.
This is a family-drama based off the novel "Aftermath", written by a north-eastern American and set in New England I believe, but taken to Germany where it plays just as well because the themes are universal. Not entirely unlike "Ordinary People", the movie follows an upper-crust family that loses their teenage son in an apparent hunting accident. We spend much of the time with his older sister, a dance/theatre student, and a professional middle-aged painter who lives alone in a studio-flat as he's commissioned by the mother to paint a portrait of the two siblings as a remembrance. Lilli, the daughter, played by Karoline Herfurth (one of the unfortunate victims in "Perfume") thinks the whole idea of this painting is insane. She's wise beyond her years, tough and engaging, precocious, but tests her sexual prowess in ways that cause her more aggravation once she gets the attention which show her physical age.
Her performance and the way she relates to the painter are the key in this movie, and they find they are kindred spirits, both nursing personal wounds. The parents are mostly distant, but every one of their scenes reveal a depth of feelings and signals, especially from the mother, that the younger son was the glue that held the family together.
I loved this movie. I loved every single scene, and there wasn't a wasted moment. It doesn't ever strain for melodrama but sees it's characters from a level gaze, revealing wounds and themes of loneliness and shame that are very maturely handled by director Link. Kudos as well for a very good music score that serves the tone of this movie excellently.
Watch for this movie in the foreign film category come Oscar time.
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