Wednesday, 15 February 2012

'Home for the Weekend' Berlinale (Competition) review:

Another warmly received German competition entrant, 'Was Bleibt' - which translates literally as "what remains", but given the far sappier English title 'Home for the Weekend' - is a quietly effective examination of how one family falls apart during a routine get together. However much they lie to one another and retreat behind false jollity, each person has significant problems - be they financial, medical or of the heart.

Berlin-based writer Marko (Lars Eidinger) is struggling to spend time with his son Zowie (Egon Merten) after separating from his wife - though he makes excuses for her absence, keeping his family in the dark. Jakob (Sebastian Zimmler) puts on a superior attitude, as the responsible, attentive son, yet his dental practice - paid for by his father Gunter (Ernst Stotzner) - is on the verge of bankruptcy. A fact he doesn't even tell his wife Ella (Picco von Groote), who in turn feels disrespected and kept at a distance.

Over the weekend all of these traumas come to the fore after Marko and Jakob's manic depressive mother
Gitte (Corinna Harfouch) discloses that she has not been taking her medication for some time and has no plans to do so. The family is divided over how to proceed, fearing violent mood swings if they talk openly in front of Gitte. This exacerbates her own feelings of isolation and threatens her will to live. When she goes for an early morning drive alone and does not return the family begin to fear the worst, intensifying their internal feud and hastening the airing of grievances.

Director Hans-Christian Schmid handles this potentially sombre story a deceptive lightness of touch, the film being peppered with smile-raising moments which enliven the kitchen sink drama. As it stands it's one of the most purely watchable films of the competition here.

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