LOCARNO, Switzerland -- German director Ulrike von Ribbeck's sly comedy "Sooner or Later" ("Fruher oder spatter") tells of how external forces can make an averagely contented suburban family become unexpectedly unhinged. Screened in Competition here, the picture should thrive internationally with its universal portrayal of modern angst and the comic aspects of potentially serious family misadventure.
Lola Klamroth is Nora, a 14-year-old given to whimsical daydreams in which she's the star of picturesque romances. Her father, Uwe (Peter Lohmeyer), sells custom kitchens in a dwindling market while mother Anette (Beata Lehman) has returned to school to complete her education.
Their lives are disrupted when a man named Thomas (Harald Schrott) moves in next door with his beautiful wife Ellen (Marie-Lou Sellem). Charismatic and charming, Thomas is a bit of a local hero, having had some success as an actor and mountaineer. But now he's back home.
Nora is immediately drawn to Thomas, not least because he is such a contrast to her father, and Thomas is not immune to her star struck attentions. Her father, who already has a low opinion of the failed actor because he was a former lover of his wife, senses the attraction. It only adds to the stress resulting from his partner's dubious business practices, which threaten his livelihood. Nora's mother, meanwhile, finds herself being wooed by a young student (Fabian Hinrichs).
While Nora's romantic fantasies draw Thomas precariously close to a fatal attraction, Uwe lets his temper get the best of him at a neighborly dinner, and Anette drifts toward her youthful suitor. The script by Von Ribbeck and Katharina Held looks askance at these doings but contrives some unpredictable twists.
Klamroth is endearing as the young woman who yearns to be grownup but is still a child and Schrott is accomplished as a man whose need for attention draws him near to temptation. Lohmeyer and Lehman, whose characters at first appear one-dimensional, successfully develop them into richly layered and complicatedly recognizable human beings.
SOONER OR LATER
Polyphon Film, Fernsehgesellschaft
Director: Ulrike von Ribbeck
Writers: Ulrike von Ribbeck, Katharina Held
Producers: Beatrice Kramm, Steffi Ackermann
Director of photography: Sonja Rom
Production designer: Ina Timmerberg
Editor: Natali Barrey
Uwe: Peter Lohmeyer
Thomas: Harald Schrott
Anette: Beata Lehman
Isa: Katharina Heyer
Ellen: Marie-Lou Sellem
Wolf: Thorsten Merten
Daniel: Fabian Hinrichs
Running time -- 91 minutes
No MPAA rating