"Lara" is a German movie from 2019 that runs for slightly under 100 minutes and was directed by Jan-Ole Gerster. The latter had a lot of success with his film "Oh Boy" in the early 2010s and seven years later, he released his new movie. Quite a long time, especially taking into account that this time he was not in charge of the script the way he was with "Oh Boy". Clearly he is not the most prolific filmmaker, at least at this point, but who knows. Maybe this is going to change at some point. He is still relatively young. The screenplay is by Slovenian Blaz Kutin and I am a bit surprised how he ended up working for this movie. The reason may be partially that this film was supposed to take place in Slovenia initially. That is what I found out during a brief Q&A as both the director and the writer were present for tonight's screening. Sadly, lead actress Harfouch, who physically and in terms of mannerisms reminds me more and more of French actress Isabelle Huppert, was not. It was a bit of a special screening as this is one of the first times a film is shown again on a big screen after the coronavirus pandemic began here in my city. I am glad movies are back, even if there are still many restrictions. But let's not get distracted by that and instead focus on the film. I think I could see a bit this is a Gerster film again because there are parallels to "Oh Boy", which makes me wonder if, to some extent, he also worked on the screenplay. For example, we have one character at the very center of the story and she is in pretty much every scene here. We see her interactions with people close to her and not so close to her and the running gag in "Oh Boy" was the coffee reference (that was even included in the international title) and here it is the central character trying to give tickets for the show to everybody. Okay, maybe I am grasping a bit for straws. I am not sure. But it felt this way to me. Of course, there are also crucial differences like the age and gender of the main character and also that this one here is not in black-and-white. It does play in Berlin though again and not in Slovenia as initially planned. This movie was nominated for a German Film Award in the biggest category (Best Picture), but the big surprise, maybe the biggest from all nominees, was that lead actress Harfouch did not get a nomination. She scored a really solid deal of awards recognition on other awards shows though. The biggest supporting player, maybe not even in terms of screen time, but in terms of how much he is at the center of the story, is Harfouch's character's son and he is played by Tom Schilling. Definitely not a coincidence as Schilling was the unanimous lead in "Oh Boy".
But now I will elaborate a bit on this film here. Looking at how Harfouch's character deals with conflicts and how she treats other people, it becomes clear really quickly that she is far from a likable person. If the ways in which her mother and piano teacher treated her in the past (that clearly turned her into who she became) are enough of an apology to justify the her comments about a boy's parents, her breaking the violin and her telling the guy who is interested in her to turn up the volume when he is trying to have a conversation is up to you to decide. She is clearly also a victim, not just a perpretator. And apparently, she is also not good with social situations at all because if she was, then she would not talked to her son like that and created all these doubts in his mind. It's never about her being wrong - we hear on several occasions that other characters agree that the first half of the concert was superior to the second - it is all about her being understanding and empathic. But the lack of empathy is something she clearly received from her mother. Also her mother likes to emphasize how her son prefers her (i.e. the grandmother) over Harfouch's character and the cake scene and how the grandmother reacted there showed very well that she has no love left for her daughter really. The idea and also the fact that it was a diet cake was really a nice gesture, but Harfouch's character gets insulted for it even. Of course, the slapping was not a justified response, but the emotional ice blocks Lara got thrown at her somehow created a scenario of self-defence. You could see that the old woman never appreciated her daughter's potential talent because this music (perhaps the genre) was nothing that impressed her at all. The grandmother is played by Gudrun Ritter and she is doing a good job with her limited screen time just like everybody else. Gerster's previous success made sure he has many actors at his disposal here who almost never miss the mark. Be it Harfouch, Schilling, Dragus, Emde, Ritter, Hasanovic or Bock and also several others indeed. Kempter and von Bülow were wasted a bit and had almost no material at all to shine. Still Kempter's scene was at least somewhat interesting because it was closely connected to Lara's outfit that seemed so special that she could be the star of the night, but it never referenced again by anybody. On the contrary, people are applauding her about her coat instead. The idea of the window and Lara's (potential) suicide plans also gave an interesting framework to the movie. You never know though if she is just looking out of the window or really wants to end it all. Especially early on. At the end, she may not be happy either, but her former teacher's words about how he just anted to push her showed her that she got it all wrong and that there is no reason to verbally insult those she appreciates the most, especially if it is such a heavy burden on them the way it is with her son. Another tortured soul. So when she decides to play the piano herself eventually before the closing credits roll in, it is also in a way a depiction of her freeing herself from her inner demons. Through art. Not through suicide. It was a good ending i think. Just like it was a good film overall, some really interesting camera shots and angles as well. Gerster is definitely making his mark here and he seems pretty reliable. I am curious about his upcoming projects. I just wonder why Harfouch (at least here on imdb) is not first credit, but oh well. Just a minor thingey and if that is what I am criticizing, then there sure cannot be too much else wrong with this film. The definitely isn't. I cannot think of too much. Maybe that the really old male teacher suddenly remembering Lara very well again did not feel too realistic after he did not even know who she was in the first place. But maybe he just pretended that he did not remember. It is possible. He does not seem to be really open with the ways how he shows approval or even praise. Lara got that from him. I think this film is also popular enough that they will make subtitles (in addition to dubs), so no matter if you are German or not (or I should say "speak German"), this is a movie worth checking out. Ne hesitation for me in giving the outcome a thumbs-up. Decent creative achievement overall.