Alone in Berlin (12A) | Close-Up Film Review

Director: Vincent Perez, Germany/France/UK, 2016, 103 mins.

Cast: Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel Bruhl

Review by Carlie Newman

Starting with the death of their only son in Germany in 1940, Otto (Brendan Gleeson) and Elsi Hampel (Emma Thomson), who live in Berlin, are completely devastated.

While Elsi is very obviously shattered, Otto seems to be dealing with his loss in a calmer manner. But in the film, we see how the death of his son makes Otto completely re-evaluate his life. Joined by his wife, Otto writes cards encouraging people to protest. against Hitler. He and Anna leave the postcards in places throughout Berlin. Detective, Kriminal Inspektor Escherich (Daniel Bruhl), is set on apprehending the perpetrator and follows his leads on the cards. Their acts of resistance to Hitler’s regime bring Otto and his wife closer together.

If it wasn’t for the two stars it would be doubtful if the film would succeed. But Emma Thompson’s quiet, thoughtful performance and Gleeson’s quiet, determined characterisation make the film worthy of a view. The main trouble is that director Vincent Perez has inflicted a very strange accent on the couple. They speak English but with a German accent! This wouldn’t be so bad if everything else was in English but the writing on the cards and everywhere else is in German.

The movie, based on a true story, comes from Hans Fallada’s 1947 novel which wasn’t translated into English until 2009. More about a marriage than a thriller, this is a film which is worth seeing in spite of its faults.