Dir: Maren Ade
Music publicist Gitti (Brigit Minichmayr) and aspiring architect Chris (Lars Eidinger) appear to epitomize the successful union of opposites: she’s quirky, a fun-loving free spirit who despises the status quo; he’s sensitive, intelligent and idealistic, at once enamored with and slightly intimidated by her unpredictable behavior. And they’re happily in love…until, that is, they begin to explore and examine their relationship alongside that of another, seemingly perfect couple and to compare themselves with invented notions of Everyone Else.
In this, her second feature-length film, writer and director Maren Ade zeros in on the minor tensions, betrayals, delights and surprises that naturally punctuate and sometimes threaten to implode a happy relationship. She compels our empathy immediately: everyone has, at some point or another, enjoyed the glow of happiness for a moment only to be pricked or prodded into doubt, discontent or confusion by the inevitable fluctuation of human behavior; everyone has faced the decision to either shake off that doubt, confront it or feed it; some of us have seen these moments drive love to the breaking point, and been left wondering what the hell happened. All of these moments arise and evolve throughout Everyone Else’s seemingly suspended-in-time two hours.
Ade doesn’t present us with a unique circumstance. Instead, her beautifully sensitive camera work and attention to the details that define each moment – changing expressions, articulate silences – allow viewers to recognize, with growing discomfort, the all too likely parallels between Gitti and Chris’s experience and their own.
Everyone Else opens in Sardinia, where the couple is vacationing at Chris’ family villa while he awaits the results of an architectural design competition and contemplates accepting a renovation project on the island. They seem content to frolic poolside, spending their afternoons reading and lounging and their evenings intertwined in the bedroom. Sure, they’re desires clash from time to time – Gitti wants to mess around while Chris reads, or begs him to go dancing when he wants to stay in with a bottle of wine (see? Sounds familiar, right?). But all in all, they are happy; not sunbursts and rose petals ecstatic but normal happy, the way real live happy people most often are. This realness is the most arresting quality of Ade’s work, and together with the talent and subtlety of Minichmayr and Eidinger it carries the film’s predictable scenes through, almost to the finish. We may see a moment coming from miles away — yet the effect withstands, undiminished; and it’s downright impressive.
Troubles and tensions bubble to the forefront when Chris runs into a successful colleague, Hans (Hans-Jochen Wagner) and his unflappable, equally impressive wife Sana (Nicole Marischka). Chris’ conflicting emotions towards Hans – jealousy, resentment, disdain, admiration – confuse and trouble Gitti, leading her to question her own attitudes and temperaments as compared with Sana’s. As they struggle to navigate the widening gap in their romance with alternating stand-offs and compromises, we find ourselves increasingly inclined to squirm in our seats, forced as we are to consider the ephemeral nature of happiness and consider the consequences of striving for a brand of perfection that is not organically our own.
Couples, be warned: although Everyone Else is about two people in love and has some sweet moments, it is absolutely not a “date movie.” That said, if you are happy just as you are and you’re lucky enough to know it, Ade’s film just may discourage you from yearning after anyone – even everyone – else’s definition of success. And there’s something personal, profound and romantic about a realization like that.