Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything: Berlinale 2023 Review

Year: 2023

Runtime: 132 minutes

Directed by Emily Atef

Written by Emily Atef and Daniela Krien

Actors: Marlene Burow, Felix Kramer, Cedric Eich, Sike Bodenbender, Florian Panzer, Jordis Triebel, Christian Erdmann, Victoria Mayer

By Sarah Manvel

This is an absolutely gorgeous and smoking hot answer to the question of what a person with limitless options should do with their life, and what happens when those choices are affected by people whose own choices were limited. This coming of age story, based on a novel by Daniela Krien who adapted the screenplay together with director Emily Atef, is set shortly after German reunification, about a family on a rural farm and the young girl whose life they have changed with their kindness. But despite the best of everyone’s intentions, kindness is not always repaid with its due. 

Maria (Marlene Burow) is nearly 19 and in her last year of school, except she has basically stopped going. It’s fine, since she doesn’t know what she wants. Most of the teachers have run off to the west anyway. She’s no dummy, in fact she spends most of her time reading The Brothers Karamazov, but she just has no clear direction for herself. She grew up in the next village but has for an unspecified amount of time been living with her boyfriend Johannes (Cedric Eich) in the attic of his family’s farmhouse, which is shared with his parents Siegfried (Florian Panzner) and Marianne (Silke Bodenbender), his younger brother, and Siegfried’s parents. They are all delighted to have Maria with them; Marianne always wanted a daughter, and Johannes has notably matured under Maria’s influence. She moved in with them after one too many arguments with her mother Hannah (Jördis Triebel), who lost her job when the factory closed down and is a broke, depressed mess. After a visit, Hannah is driving Maria back to the farm when she pulls the keys out of the ignition, so the car can coast down a slight hill and she can save on gas. But the brakes fail and the car rolls entirely over before coming to a sickening upright stop. They stagger out of the car into a field belonging to Henner (Felix Kramer), who has been alone with his dogs since his parents died and his wife ran off. Henner helps Hannah get the car back on the road. She is too shaken up to talk and drives off without a word. Maria picks up her bag and follows Henner home. He has a reputation in the village as a ladies’ man, but he is surprised Maria is interested in him. He is unwashed and mannerless and also twice her age. But there’s really only one game adults best like to play.

The secret affair with Henner and her more playful relationship with Johannes, sublimated into her friendship with his entire family, manifests the choice Maria absolutely must make about her future. Could she stay in Henner’s farmhouse, doing absolutely filthy things over the kitchen table with him, and have that be the limits of her life? Or could she accompany Johannes to Leipzig, where he’s decided to study photography, and enjoy the exploration of the world their parents were denied? Or maybe even something else. Siegfried has a brother named Hartmut (Christian Erdmann) who did make it to the west, and who returns with his wife and their school-age children for his first sight of his family in nearly twenty years. (Everyone, including the little kids, shakes hands on arrival, which couldn’t be more German if it tried.) But the joys of the west are not necessarily totally delightful. For Siegfried to adapt his farm to western organic standards involves spending money on certifications he just doesn’t have. Separately, on a day trip to Munich, Henner tries to order a beer and when the waitress provides the list of choices – lager, ale or stout, bottle or draft – the best he can reply is small. 

Ms Burow gets very, very naked in this movie, and Mr Kramer does too, but the point of all the sex scenes is how the shifting feelings between Henner and Maria are expressed through the sex, and how their relationship develops and shifts through what they do in bed and how they do it together. It’s less about all the nudity (though there certainly is plenty of that) and more about how Maria uses her sexual experiences to determine the direction she wants her life to go in. Do you want a man who so obviously hungers for you he could start a fire just by looking, or do you want a boy whose enthusiasm is not matched with any skill? Do you want to leave your only home to gamble there might be better options elsewhere? Or has true happiness found you right where you are?

The calm delight of this movie is how happy life on the farm is. Siegfried and Marianne clearly have a terrific marriage and their sons know how lucky they are. The early shot of the entire family, including Maria, raking hay in a line on the hillside makes this beautifully apparent, and Armin Dierolf’s cinematography is the dictionary definition of sun-kissed. Maria has no interest in hurting Johannes and is terrified about how she could damage her relationship with Marianne. But she looks at Henner and can’t help herself. This is fair; Mr Kramer could teach most actors a thing or two about how strongly repressed emotions can be expressed through the face. But the main sensation that lingers from the film is one of hopeful exploration. Maria’s life is in front of her and she has all her choices still to make. There are many people who love her and who will do their best to make things better for her. And the way “Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything” makes that knowledge linger in the bodies of the audience is very special indeed. 

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