FOUR OF US, THE (Du Sie Er & Wir)

(director/writer: Florian Gottschick; screenwriter: Florian Von Bornstädt; cinematographer: Lukas Steinbach; editor: Christoph Dechant; music: Jonas Nay/David Grabowski; cast: Jonas Nay (Nils), Paula Kalenberg (Maria), Nilam Farooq (Janina), Tim Oliver Schultz  (Anton), Janina Elkin (Frau Bolschakow), Louis Nitsche (Ben); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Sven Sund: Netflix; 2021-Germany-in German but dubbed in English)

The more this film went on, the more shallow it seemed.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The German filmmaker Florian Gottschick (“Bright Night”/”Fucking Berlin”) directs in a tight-ass way this rom/com, meant to be titillating or something like that. It’s flatly co-written by the director and by Florian Von Bornstädt. It entertains the idea of reflecting on love, lust and sex, as it follows an unmarried foursome who switch partners for a month and lay down one rule they all agree they must follow: there’s to be “no sex.”

The 20something aged couples are: The caustic, hard working real estate agent, Nils (Jonas Nay). He’s with the insecure kindergarten teacher, Maria (Paula Kalenberg). The other couple consists of the out of work actor, Ben (Louis Nitsche), with the magazine journalist, Janina (Nilam Farooq).

The friends after living with their new partner for a month reunite for the week-end at the remote beach house on the Baltic Sea owned by Nils’ parents. Nils lived with Janina, and Ben with Maria.

They assess the experiment to see if it worked. Secrets come out, their friendships are questioned and twists occur. Predictably, we learn that one couple breaks the “no sex” rule.

Most of the time is spent talking about their feelings (it’s a chatty film), of trying to determine if intimacy could be gotten again with their old partner if now lost and if human weakness (all four suffer from character flaws-Nils is a smug asshole, Janina is a self-righteous prig, Maria is tired of being nagged to death by an overbearing mom to get married and Ben is running low on confidence) can be overcome with a healthy attitude toward a relationship. With every reveal, it seems someone has a fit.

It ultimately asks the film’s big question, if you love one partner can you then love another even more.

The more this film went on, the more shallow it seemed. I would think such an experiment shouldn’t be conducted outside a research lab, which should be the point of the film even if it might not be. Neither should it be made into a film, as there is nothing here to grapple with that’s compelling.

REVIEWED ON 12/29/2021  GRADE: C