Adapted from the bestseller by Hans Fallada, Jeder stirbt für sich allein, Alone in Berlin is an English-language period drama about the resistance initiative led by Otto and Anna Quangel, a middle-aged working class couple who lost their son in battle. Heartbroken and disillusioned, they decide to covertly defy the Nazi regime by distributing postcards around Berlin with anti-Hitler slogans.
Vincent Perez’ third directorial effort has its heart in the right place but at no point does his film do the material justice. It offers no subtlety and the amateurish script features some bafflingly contrived character pivots which not even Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson can redeem. The ever-watchable latter does her very best with the gossamer-thin characterisation she is given, but to no avail; the less said about the short-changed Daniel Brühl and a reprehensibly sucrose final shot, the better.
What remains is the lingering question of why this story was told in English in the first place, as Alone in Berlin wastes its thespian casting coup and doesn’t achieve any kind of universality. There is also a pervasive sense of frustration that such dramatic potential was squandered for a familiar and unambitious execution. It’s not quite return to sender, but these protest postcards deserved so much better.
Alone in Berlin | Directed by Vincent Perez (UK/FR/DE, 2016) with Brendan Gleeson, Emma Thompson, Daniel Brühl. Starts November 17.
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