This is part of my effort to watch all the films on Max Riemelt’s filmography.
Tim (Max Riemelt) and Can (Elyas M’Barek) are two aspiring chefs who have absolutely no luck in baiting women with their pathetic pick-up lines. To win the ladies over, they start pretending to be terminally ill cancer patients whose last wish is to get laid. Through this scheme, Tim meets Marie (Anna Fischer), whom he starts to think of as more than just a fling. As it turns out though, Marie lives with her actually terminally ill older sister Edda (Jessica Schwarz) who is bitter about the inevitability of her death. Believing that it would be good for Tim and Edda to spend time together, Marie asks him to befriend her sister. But Edda instantly sees through Tim’s lie.
Warning: I watched the movie without subtitles. I understand German, but barely.
Despite knowing about Tim’s lie, Edda makes him tag along on her exploits to live out her last days to the fullest. First, they break into Edda’s old workplace – a flower shop – to take revenge on Edda’s old boss by having a herd of goats munch through all the plants they have in stock. Then, they terrorize Edda’s ex at his office, scaring him so badly that he ends up wetting his pants. Over more adventures, Tim ends up being Edda’s friend. Edda feels happier than she’s been in a long while.
At the same time, Tim and Marie’s relationship progresses slowly. Marie doesn’t want to date a man who’s dying – considering her sister is dying as well – and Tim doesn’t know how to confess that the story about him having cancer is a lie. Tim and Can’s friendship suffers, too. Can refuses to play up to the lie that they started and also declines Tim’s offer to partner on their own restaurant. Eventually, Can slips up and reveals to Marie that Tim isn’t sick and that the whole cancer story is a lie. This causes a rift between Tim and Marie, and they remain unfriendly even after Edda dies.
Time passes and Tim fulfills his dream of starting his own restaurant with Can. Marie deals with her grief alone and badly, until her sister’s old doctor turns up at her house with a delivery from Edda. The package contains a letter telling Marie not to fear now that she’s passed on, as well as a photograph of Tim and Marie during their first dinner together with Edda. In her letter, Edda tells Marie that Tim is The One for her. This spurs Marie to go to Tim’s restaurant and reconcile with him. The last shot is that of the exterior of Tim and Can’s restaurant, which is revealed to be called Edda’s. The red neon sign flickers briefly, before it settles and remains lit in the quiet street.
Plot-wise, there is nothing new about this story. The elements one would expect from a romantic comedy about living in the midst of cancer are all present: jadedness, high-risk adventures, indirect empowerment caused by the realization that life is short, and tears. The most refreshing angle, to my mind, is that the story unravels from the point-of-view of the male protagonist, whose primary concern eventually shifts from getting into Marie’s pants to being there for Edda.
This transition, to me, is also the primary strength of the movie’s plot. Although essentially a romance, Heiter bis Wolkig also proves itself to be a strong testament to camaraderie. The friendship aspect is what appeals to me the most – probably because more screen time was devoted to building the relationship between Tim and Edda than the romance between Tim and Marie.
I can’t say anything about the dialogue, because I watched this without subtitles. I only understood enough of the German lines to piece the events together. It also doesn’t help that the transition between scenes is very choppy and disconnected. If one doesn’t pay attention, it may be difficult to thread the connection between two consecutive – yet unrelated – scenes.
Initially, the characters give the impression that they could be caricatures instead of real people. Edda rises from this by proving that even though she naturally has a bitter and pessimistic personality, she also truly cares for her sister’s happiness. Marie, easy to think of as a gentle soul, also shows very human flaws as the story progresses. She resents how she’s cared for her sister for a long time, yet Edda still chooses to talk to Tim more. She also reveals a violent, unforgiving temper when she finds out that she’s been lied to. Tim’s claim to character development fame is that he’s driven to pursue his dreams after Edda’s struggle inspires him. Can, we never get to learn much about.
Acting-wise, the four main cast members have an acceptable dynamic going on between them. Riemelt plays the role of the gentle and easy-going Tim adorably, and M’Barak – despite not having much screen time – delightfully steals the show when the limelight is on him. Fischer is believable as the cute but occasionally temperamental Marie, and Schwarz just owns the role of Edda. The two male leads, however, couldn’t convince me that they were the best of friends, and there is sadly no chemistry between Riemelt and Fischer. But that’s okay, because Riemelt and Schwarz are just delicious together. The energy between them is fantastic.
The cinematography hints at nothing. It doesn’t contribute much to the mood of the film. It isn’t uplifting, but it isn’t offensive either. It just is.
In terms of music, it was a disappointment that most of the background songs were in English. Moreover, aside from the excellent sequence after Edda’s death – which features the Goo Goo Dolls’ Iris – these English songs don’t do much for the film. The ending theme (Soehne Mannheim’s Gesucht und Gefunden) is fantastic though, and perfect for the movie.
As far as mainstream romantic comedies go, Heiter bis Wolkig may be considered original. It’s refreshing, too, despite the morbid theme of death that the story revolves around. It has a great balance of sentimentality and clear-headedness; the recognition that death is inevitable, but that life must go on still. The main drawback of the movie is that although its sobriety arguably differentiates it from most romcom movies, it remains predictable. So despite its life-affirming message, the takeaway of Heiter bis Wolkig just doesn’t stick.
Total Rating: 6/10
Packed with compelling performances and laugh-out-loud situations, the failing of Heiter bis Wolkig is simply its formulaic plot.
For Riemelters out there, you better watch this one. He is absolutely adorable here, and because of his edgy project choices, he probably won’t get a character this cute in a long time or even ever again. He portrays Tim’s head-over-heels-in-love situation so well, and as a Riemelter – don’t you want to see him with hearts in his eyes?
International Title: Partly Sunny.
Produced by: Film1, Seven Pictures, Constantin Film Produktion.
Genre: Romance | Comedy | Tragedy.
Written by: Axel Staeck.
Directed by: Marco Petry.
Photo (c) Westfaelische Nachrichten.