German Gems 2012: “Above Us Only Sky” and “Way Home” Reviews and Trailers

Director, Jan Schomburg does everything right in his feature-length debut in what is essentially a case study on grief.  The film smarty and coyly covers all seven steps of the grieving process, and it does so in such a way that even if you know what these steps are and can figure out how the movie will end that you will still be impressed at Schomburg’s straightforwardness and exemplary filmmaking technique – a technique that overshadows any preconceived predictability one might have of the film and its morose subject matter.  But, the two parts of the process that stood out the most for me are found in the first step; Shock & Denial.

It’s only right that the first half of the film should play like a mystery, as the newly widowed Martha desperately tries to find clues as to who her husband was when he was alive and why he would die the way he did.  After all, the shock (First stage of grief) of losing someone so close to you, and so unexpectedly, will no doubt leave even the sanest of minds reeling in clouds of inscrutability.

The second half of the film plays more like a romantic drama in that the focus is on Martha trying to get over her loss and move on with a new man as though all is well; the denial stage of grief.  As I mentioned earlier, regardless of whether or not you know these steps bare little weight on the overall power of this film.

As satisfying as it was to see such a powerful emotion as grief captured so poignantly on film, so too was the equally satisfying final shot.  I’m a sucker for seeing a film end with an impressive of a shot as the film’s opening, and this one impressed me.  Without giving anything away, watching the final shot in Above Us Only Sky was what I’d imagine a Michale Haneke final shot would look like if he made his next film in Bollywood.  Sounds odd, I know, but believe me, this was a great way to end a film.  Very satisfying.

Way Home

Depressed man dying of a broken heart and determined to take his own life meets equally depressed and suicidal neighbor who is struggling to maintain her sanity while caring for a husband suffering from the later stages of Alzheimer’s.  Sounds like a laugh riot, right?  Don’t be fooled by the gloom and doom synopsis though.  This film might not contain many (if any) laughs, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be fully engaged while watching it either.  Fans of humanistic and realist cinema will be able to find joy, or at the very least, hope, in Way Home – I know I did.

I can see how some people might see this insurmountable onslaught of dramatic situation after dramatic situation as having a sort of “Life is shit and then you die” pathos, but I like to think of it more of a “Life is fertilized shit filled with messy situations, that when carefully tended to will produce beautiful flowers and nutritious foods.”  It’s a somewhat obnoxiously over optimistic way of looking things, I know, but that’s just the way I see it and it’s the way I interpreted Way Home, which, topically enough, is not even its original title.

The film was originally called No Way Home, but somebody involved in the film wisely dropped the negative use of the word No from its title.  I guess the filmmakers figured most people who go to the movies go to escape their problems, not be bombarded with the weightiness of life’s woes.

None of this movie’s themes would matter all that much if the acting wasn’t good, which it is.  The performances were so believable that at one point I actually felt the need to call the suicide prevention hotline.  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I think I made my point.

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