Everyone Else (Cinema Guild, NR)

Don’t be fooled by the eye-candy. The weapons may differ, but the interpersonal wars being fought on a micro-scale in this film are as intense as anything in Restrepo or The Hurt Locker.

Everyone Else is the quintessential summer movie—European style. Instead of explosions, slapstick and CGI, you get an intense look at human relationships focused on a group of attractive people in drop-dead gorgeous surroundings. Don’t be fooled by the eye-candy, though. The weapons may differ, but the interpersonal wars being fought on a micro-scale in this film are as intense as anything in Restrepo or The Hurt Locker.
Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr) is a music promoter given to showing off her figure with micro-bikinis and satin track shorts. Chris (Lars Eidinger) is a gifted but insecure architect, with a shy way of seeming cute without even trying. They hold the potential to become a glamorous young power couple and are currently enjoying a summer idyll at a Sardinian villa owned by Chris’ parents, a setup that might suggest a fluffy romcom. Almost from the start, however, you can sense trouble in paradise. Chris is irritated by Gitti’s playful affections and unaccountably terrified of being seen by their neighbor Hans (Hans-Jochen Wagner). There’s just something off about the whole setup.
Exactly what that something is, or isn’t, will be worked out at length over the 119 minutes of this film. This might sound long for a movie that, for much of its length, is a two-hander, but in fact it’s like getting all of Scenes from a Marriage in under two hours. Chris and Gitti’s togetherness is punctuated by two dinners with Hans and his wife Sana (Nicole Marischka), and those dinners provide some of the most intense emotional moments of the film.
Director Maren Ade, who also wrote the script, trusts her audience to work out the relationships among the characters. She also lets things happen at a human pace, so much so that you sometimes feel like a voyeur peering into some of the more painful moments of this couple’s life. As a screenwriter she has a gift for scenes that illustrate the inner life of a character (the first time we meet Gitti she’s engaged in a war of wills with a child, and you might wonder for a moment which of the two is less mature), while as a director she knows exactly where to direct our attention. Frequently, this is not on the speaker but on the person reacting to what is being said. This technique is best exemplified by Ade’s choice to linger on Gitti at the first dinner with Hans and Sana as we see her realize, through an apparently ordinary conversational exchange between Chris and Hans, that something is terribly wrong.
Everyone Else is an emotionally rich film, and Ade lets us see the characters working out much more than whether or not their relationship can be saved. A key issue both Gitti and Chris are confronting is the tension between individuality and the compromises nearly everyone has to make in order to join the adult world. In a classic bit of scriptwriting, the slightly older and more successful Hans and Sana are there for them to contemplate as role models or cautionary tales. The older couple serves as an even more chilling example of the consequences of making too many, or the wrong, concessions within a relationship, and the prospect of facing the remainder of your life with emotions as stunted as the limbs on a bonsai tree.
The technical package is excellent, including location cinematography by Bernhard Keller, production design by Silke Fischer and editing by Heike Parplies. Everyone Else won three prizes at the Berlin International Film Festival (Minichmayer for Best Actress, Fischer for production design, Ade for the Jury Grand Prix) and that was no accident—this is one film that amply rewards viewers who are willing to extend the time and effort to enter its world. | Sarah Boslaugh

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