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Original title: Das Floß!

D: Julia C. Kaiser / 86m

Cast: Julia Becker, Jakob Renger, Anna König, Till Butterbach, Rhon Diels, Christian Natter, Nina Bernards, Sina Bianca Hentschel

German movies haven’t really been too conspicuous in recent years. In the new millennium, and though the German movie industry has climbed out of the doldrums brought about by the rise in home viewing in the 1990’s, on the international stage, German movies have rarely made an impact. The arrival of Toni Erdmann (2016) was a much needed fillip for the industry, but for the movie buff who is prepared to do a little digging, there are other movies out there that are worth a look and a mention. One such movie is Floating!, the first feature of writer/director Julia C. Kaiser. The set up is a simple one: Katha (Becker) and Jana (König) have decided to get married and to have a child via artificial insemination. They’ve even chosen a sperm donor, called Momo (Renger). One weekend, both have their bachelor/bachelorette parties. Katha heads off to the countryside to meet her brother Tobi (Natter), her oldest friend Charly (Butterbach), and friend and work colleague, Ken (Diels), for a trip on a motorised raft. Jana meanwhile, stays at their flat and has several of her friends over. But unexpected guests at both parties – Momo at the raft, Jana’s ex-partner Susan (Bernards) at the flat – threaten to cause both women to question their relationship.

Floating! is exactly the kind of feature that’s needed to remind people that German movie makers can produce the same astute, enjoyable, and carefully crafted movies that their European counterparts can make. Focusing on the pre-marital doubts that could affect any couple, straight or gay, Kaiser’s gently probing script gives the us time to get to know the characters and understand enough of their back stories so that we can sympathise with the emotional issues that they find themselves facing. Katha, surrounded by males who all view her differently, finds herself wondering if there’s any merit in being straight (or at least finding out what it might be like). She’s comfortable with their bloke-ish camaraderie and easy-going behaviour. She even comes to appreciate Momo’s presence, even though she makes it clear he won’t have a role in the baby’s life. With copious amounts of alcohol to help confuse matters further, Katha becomes unsure of herself and her commitment to Jana. Meanwhile, Jana is shocked by the presence of Susan at her party, and though she does all the right things in trying to avoid her/get rid of her, when Susan explains why she’s there, Jana – who walked out of their relationship – begins to doubt the wisdom of her past actions. And she too finds herself torn between what she has and what she could have.

This being a romantic drama with suitable helpings of comedy to make it more agreeable, Floating! remains a consistently plausible and thoughtful examination of the natural doubts any couple might have before making that final commitment to each other. There’s a lightness of touch and emphasis in Kaiser’s direction that allows us to feel like we’ve known the characters all their lives, and the cast respond accordingly, giving natural, appealing performances that further enhance the sense that these are all people you could meet at any time, and anywhere. The dialogue is entirely natural sounding too, and very little feels forced or contrived. It’s all shot by DoP Dominik Berg using an autumnal colour palette that emphasises the possibility of change within the characters as well as the season, and Nicole Weber’s editing ensures that the pace of the movie is reflected in the bustle of Jana’s party and the laconic ease of the raft party.

Rating: 8/10 – a wry, sympathetic, and engaging look at love found and nearly lost, Floating! is a delightful movie anchored by finely balanced, intuitive performances, and Kaiser’s confident direction; one not only for fans of German cinema, but for anyone who wants to see a movie that tells its tale with an understated grace and in a very simple, yet very effective fashion.

NOTE: The trailer below doesn’t have English subtitles.