Similar in style and tone to last year's "Blue Valentine," the German film "Everyone Else" provides us with an oblique look at a troubled relationship. Though the couple in this film does not seem as overtly unhappy as the one in the American work, there is still something clearly eating away at their relationship. The most admirable aspect of the screenplay by Maren Ade is that it doesn't throw easy labels onto either the characters or the problems they're facing. The movie is really more a piece of objective reportage chronicling their lives over the course of a few days than a plot- and theme-driven narrative leading us to a preordained conclusion about them as people.
Chris (Lars Eidinger) is a gifted but apparently not very successful architect, while Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr), his girlfriend, who works in the recording business, seems to be generally supportive of his efforts. Chris and Gitti are spending a relaxing vacation at his mother's home on the Mediterranean, when Gitti begins to off-handedly question Chris's masculinity (we assume that it has more to do with his lack of initiative and drive than with his personal mannerisms). In response, Chris begins to treat Gitti in an ever more callous fashion, trying to prove her wrong by acting in the dismissive and domineering way he assumes "real" men do, and in the way, if Gitta is any indication, women apparently want them to.
But this synopsis really only covers the tip of the iceberg, for there are clearly many more complex dynamics taking place within this relationship that are not so easily delineated and described. Suffice it to say that the movie explores the myriad elements that go into relationships, and does so without spelling them out in simplistic terms and without passing judgment on the characters. The parameters within which any relationship must be set are still evolving and fluid in the case of Chris and Gitti, and this leads to much pushing of the boundaries and behavioral experimentation on the part of the couple throughout the course of the film. Ade's direction is unobtrusive and observational in nature, which allows the actors to interact with one another in a quasi-improvisational and thus wholly believable fashion.
There is, however, a definite downside to this type of storytelling - "Blue Valentine" suffered from it as well - and that is that the motivations for the characters' actions are often so murky and inexplicable that they can seem downright arbitrary to those of us who are watching all of this unfold from the outside in. That's why Chris and Gitti strike us as being more weird and annoying - if not downright daffy - than anything else at times.
Thus, your initial response might be to assume that perhaps Chris and Gitti simply aren't meant for one another and that they might think about looking elsewhere for a relationship. But, then again, if it were that easy to get out of a troubled relationship, we'd have no need in the first place for films like "Everyone Else."