The seventeen-year-old Phil (Louis Hofmann) is on the search. As little as he knows about his past and especially his father, his presence is so chaotic: with his mother Glass (Sabine Timoteo), who once again has a new lover (Sascha Alexander Gerak) who does not seem to give up as fast as his Predecessor. With his twin sister Dianne (Ada Philine Stappenbeck), who is increasingly withdrawing into her own world, which she shares with no one. There is an enigmatic ice age between Tereza (Inka Friedrich) and Pascal (Nina Proll), who also belong to Phil’s patchwork family. Good at least to his best friend Kat (Svenja Jung), with the He can chill and hang out.
And then it happens: A new pupil enters the class after the summer holidays and Phil falls immortal in the second. Nicholas (Jannik Schümann) seems to answer his feelings, but he also gives Phil many puzzles. The chaos is perfect. The first great love, but also envy, jealousy, and mystery, which is not least the friendship with Kat to a hard trial. Phil’s search for his center of the world is becoming more pressing.
This delicate German coming-of-ager – adapted by director Jakob Erwa from an Andreas Steinhöfel novel – wobbles between genuinely cute and aggravatingly twee before finding its feet alongside its protagonist. Sensitive late-teen Phil (Louis Hofmann) returns from camp one summer to find the small town he’d thought a paradise irrevocably altered: a storm has rearranged his usual reference points, distancing beloved sister Dianne (Ada Philine Stappenbeck) and leaving free-spirit mother Glass (Sabine Timoteo) even more emotionally fragile than when he left.
There is one ray of light in sporty new kid Nicholas (Jannik Schümann), enthusiastically leading our boy into the locker-room showers, but we’re set to wondering whether Phil’s tangled history will darken even this glimmer of promise.
Flashbacks to Phil and Dianne’s days as Teutonically blond toddlers are proofs of baggage but feel unnecessary, and Erwa is prone to occasional visual cliches, like the overhead shot of semi-clad bodies atop a jetty that seems to recur in every Mitteleuropean drama about first fumbling love. Yet he establishes an intriguing, complicated and capably performed relationship between a mother who’s known only hurt from the opposite sex and a son palpably longing for male affection and affirmation.
A vaguely educative, afterschool-special vibe may mean the 15 certificate reflects its optimal viewer age – it’s partly couched as a primer in handling heartbreak – but Erwa’s emotional candor ensures his film will strike resonant chords with anybody who spent their formative years extricating themselves from strangulating family ties.