The title of Maren Ade’s quietly observed film is subtly conveyed in passing, a desire expressed by uninhibited rock publicist, Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr) to her architect boyfriend, Chris (Lars Eidinger) that their relationship will not be reduced to the banal paradigm of being like “everyone else”. But romanticism soon collides with reality for the couple during a holiday to Sardinia. This rupture crystallizes in an episode in which Chris (Lars Eidinger) gives a tour of his mother’s sitting room to dinner guests, Hans (Hans-Jochen Wagner) and his wife Sana (Nicole Marischka) despite Gitti’s reluctance – an eclectically furnished room with a painted tree branch, personal mementos, whimsical curios, and a passé record collection that prompts Sana to remark that the room is filed with longing. It is a comment that would also embody the nature of Chris and Gitti’s relationship and its gradual unraveling. Increasingly insecure over professional setbacks, the reserved Chris is reluctant to involve Gitti in his affairs, avoiding disclosure that he had lost a prestigious design contest by claiming that the selection had still not been announced. Reuniting with old friend and fellow architect (and implicit rival) Hans, Chris and Gitti begin to reevaluate their relationship within the paradigm of Hans and Sana’s seemingly parsed, well-defined roles within their own relationship and, in the process, begin to lose their own identities. Ade insightfully uses flat compositions and medium shots to de-dramatize the action, creating a neutral framing that reflects the fluid dynamics intrinsic in the formation and dissolution of all relationships. Framed in the context of the mother’s sitting room, their struggle is also an unarticulated longing expressed through ridiculous, imperfect displays of personality and validation.
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