Quick Hit: A sweet romantic movie that makes a large department store the setting of love.
In the Aisles screens at SLIFF 2018 on Wednesday 07 November 2018 at 2:10p at the Plaza Frontenac and Friday 09 November at 12:30p at the Plaza Frontenac. Get tickets here!
Hidden amongst the aisles of any large retail giant is a thriving ecosystem. No, I’m not talking about the food (I’m looking at you there Sausage Party), or even the economy that ebbs and flows and moves with each and every customer. I’m referring to the workers – the staff that stocks the shelves, unloads the trucks, and generally keeps us fed and in consumer paradise. Having worked in a retail store for a few holiday seasons, I know that ecosystem fairly well. You develop into sects based on where you work in the store, and refer to people as such, but there is a general camaraderie as you rebel against the public in small ways.
Director Thomas Stuber takes that idea and makes it the focus of his story. He zeroes in not only on the relationships between people, but on the store itself, and how it (and the work inside it) can take on a life of its own. I mean, the film begins with classic music outlining forklift movement. It’s a beautiful comparison to the symphony that is the operations inside large stores. Stuber also takes the opportunity to use musical sounds, like the ocean waves, to give audio poetry to the movement of these forklifts, as well as some other small tricks throughout the film. There’s also a beautiful amount of images between the large, ceiling high shelves, the different sections of the store, and even a darkness that is reflected in its live fish section.
Despite the fact that the store could be a character in itself, there are some wonderful characters in the film, and no one seems out of place of wasted. The supporting characters are dynamite – from Klaus, who is a grumpier gentleman with a power lift, to the boss, who perfectly epitomizes the managerial role in the store and in these staff’s lives. But it’s three characters who own the story – Christian (Franz Rogowski), an ex-convict who begins work in the store trying to escape his past – Bruno (Peter Kurth), a former truck driver who serves as a mentor to Christian – and Marion (Sandra Hüller) a woman who works in the Sweets section.
Marion and Christian slowly circle each other before the romance begins to proliferate between them. Christian is quiet and unassuming, Marion is a popular worker who isn’t afraid to talk to “Newbie”. But complications arise after Christian shows more of himself. Marion is married, most likely to an abuser. Eventually, she has to take a leave from work, and that severs the connection between them, and untethers Christian from the life he has built for himself. It’s a very convincing spiral that many may recognize. Bruno attempts to pull him out of it (and succeeds) but doing so brings a hidden cost.
I really liked this movie. I thought it was sweet and hit all the right notes. The acting is tremendous, particularly from Peter Kurth, who was my favorite character. But I could also watch the slow, tenuous, testing interactions of Rogowski and Hüller for hours. I’m giving this one an “A”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"