Providing an arthouse alternative to this weekend's studio comedy, Date Night, audiences (in New York, at least) were able to sample two very different films about couples: the German drama Everyone Else and the Australian thriller, The Square. While I intend to see Date Night eventually (perhaps on a plane), I chose to see the other two films instead this weekend.
Maren Ade's Everyone Else is a contemplative study of Chris and Gitti, a young married couple who are spending a quiet holiday by themselves in a Sardinian villa. The kids are away, and the couple is allowed to enjoy one another's company in ways seemingly rare. Chris is consumed by career concerns, while Gitti carries a complicated burden on your shoulders. She adores Chris, and has no trouble sharing her feelings. He's more withdrawn, and has a harder time revealing how he feels to Gitti. When they stumble upon other (happier) couples in the seaside town, Chris and Gitti are forced to examine their dynamic even further.
There are no major shocks in Everyone Else. The drama escapes onto the screen with subtle actions, glances from one person to another, or silly games between a couple. A lack of high tension may alienate arthouse audiences looking for a diverting Mediterranean adult drama, but patient viewers will be rewarded. That said, I do feel Everyone Else is about 20 minutes too long, with a glacial pace that doesn't require two hours. Nevertheless, the film works as a story of romantic discovery, giving new meaning to "falling in love all over again."
A very volatile and shocking turn of events await the lovers in Nash Edgerton's The Square. This Australian thriller from the prolific filmmakers and actors at Blue Tongue, was actually released in its native country almost two years ago. But, thanks to new distributor Apparition, it is finding its way to theaters in the U.S. through the Spring. A smart thriller that follows the lineage of Blood Simple and Body Heat, The Square is the story of Ray and Carla, two married individuals having an affair with one another. When a plot to steal some cash from Carla's husband goes awry, Ray must figure out a way to save a lot more than his marriage (or his adulterous relationship). People die, both intentionally and unintentionally; allegiances shift and sway. The Square is not highly-stylized, but it is whip-smart.
It is hard not to watch the work of the Edgerton brothers Nash (as director) and Joel (as co-writer and co-star), without thinking of the brothers Coen. Narratively speaking, The Square captures a lot of the same intricate tension that peppers most of the Coens' best work. And, while I introduced The Square here under the guise of "relationship movies," this great film is probably less a portrait of lovers and more a portrait of talented filmmaking brothers. The Square is part of an Australian New Wave that includes the terrific Animal Kingdom (to be released soon) and the disliked Hesher (release TBD). There's little pleasant romance in The Square, but it will help you fall in love with emerging talent.