Friday 15 September 2017

"Centre of My World" (Guardian 15/09/17)

Centre of My World ***
Dir: Jakob M. Erwa. With: Louis Hofmann, Sabine Timoteo, Jannik Schumann, Ada Philine Stappenbeck. 115 mins. Cert: 15

This delicate German coming-of-ager – adapted by director Jakob Erwa from an Andreas Steinhöfel novel – wobbles between genuinely cute and aggravatingly twee before finding its feet alongside its protagonist. Sensitive late-teen Phil (Louis Hofmann) returns from camp one summer to find the small town he’d previously thought a paradise irrevocably altered, if not altogether lost: a storm has rearranged his usual reference points, distancing beloved sister Dianne (Ada Philine Stappenbeck) and leaving free-spirit mother Glass (Sabine Timoteo) even more emotionally fragile than when he left. One ray of light presents in sporty new kid Nicholas (Jannik Schümann), enthusiastically leading our boy into the locker-room showers, but we’re set to wondering whether Phil’s tangled history will darken even this glimmer of promise.

Flashbacks to Phil and Dianne’s days as Teutonically blonde toddlers are proofs of baggage but feel like baggage, and Erwa is prone to occasional visual clichés, like the overhead shot of semi-clad bodies atop a jetty that seems to recur in every Mitteleuropan drama about first fumbling love. Yet he does right by Steinhöfel’s throughline, establishing an intriguing, complicated and capably performed relationship between a mother who’s known only hurt from the opposite sex, and a son palpably longing for male affection and affirmation. A vaguely educative, afterschool-special vibe may mean the certificate reflects its optimal viewer age – it’s partly couched as a primer in handling heartbreak – but Erwa’s emotional candour ensures it’ll likely strike resonant chords with anybody who spent their formative years extricating themselves from strangulating family ties.

Centre of My World opens in selected cinemas from today.

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