My streaming gem: why you should watch All Is Well – The Guardian

Last year, Ari Aster was praised for setting the horrors of Midsommar in bright, sunlit scenes: by refusing the easy scares of nighttime, the director succeeded in making something especially disquieting, a paranoid waking nightmare. Although All Is Well, the debut feature film by German director Eva Trobisch, is not a horror film, it similarly thumbs its nose at the register of darkness you might expect from a drama about somebody recovering from a sexual assault. Janne, the young woman in question, never names her attacker; never seeks revenge; doesnt have a moment of reckoning and, as she attempts to continue her life as usual, Trobisch frames her in solidly neutral whites. The pale workshirts she wears; sunlight through white blinds; white bricks at Jannes trendy office; computer light on her face; the walls of a hospital clinic: its as if the world surrounding Janne is undisturbed. That unsullied universe only heightens the weight of the torment we know she is going through.

Janne is suffering. At the start of the movie, she and her boyfriend have just folded their small publishing outfit when she attends a school reunion at which, in short succession, she receives a job offer and is raped by Martin, another partygoer. Trobisch, with a remarkable knack for storytelling, gets through all of this in 20 minutes; 20 minutes filled, too, with so much observation and humanity. As Janne and Martin get pissed at the party and wend their way back together, the two are filmed giggling, drunkenly proffering beer to a passing cat. The movies gift for the plausible, the banal, is evident in all of this as it is when Jannes laughing, disbelieving derision towards Martin, when he makes overtures, seems to be what pushes him to assault her. The film is a bold, rich portrait of a woman, but it also trains a gimlet eye on the cringing weakness of men.

This continues after Janne returns to the apartment she shares with her boyfriend a mostly amiable, loving oaf of a man, with anger problems and an inability to listen and takes the job she was offered. In a horrifying twist, Martin also works at Jannes new office, and the two will have to work together. Trobisch is astute in the way she threads the workspace into the narrative; this is now just one more area where Janne has to keep it together, one further instance of oppression. Aenne Schwarz, playing Janne, offers a masterclass here not only anchoring the films story, but cluing us in to all of Jannes warring anguish and resolve; her gnawing exhaustion, too. Schwarz gives us the merest split second of pain before switching on her capable public face; it is extraordinarily disquieting to see Janne lean in to greet Martin with a kiss on either cheek. As the movie continues, Schwarz shows Jannes control slipping, all the while maintaining an appearance of remaining steadfast.

All Is Well, as should be clear by now, doesnt do things quite like other movies. The film is slow-paced and forensic, in the vein of recent German films; it is perhaps reminiscent of Toni Erdmann in the way it incorporates work into its study of character. There is weirdness and absurdity here too; things that cant be explained away as when Janne, in helpless torment after an argument with her boyfriend, takes off her clothes on the landing outside the flat, and posts them through the letterbox. Trobisch, maintaining a riveting control over character and incident throughout, is brazenly uninterested in shortcuts or easy answers. To wit, a late confrontation between Janne and Martin, sharply written, in which Martin now finds himself the one saying no this scene never spills into the dramatic, and doesnt offer catharsis. The movies blink-and-youll-miss-it opening scene gives the tone of the film, as Janne impassively watches an advert for a cleaning product, in which a woman admonishes two men for dirtying her floor. That whiteness again!

The films sublime rug-pull of an ending one of the greatest ends in recent times sees Jannes situation spilling over into the public sphere, as she rides the subway. Its intelligent, because here Janne is a public body, a civilian and a dissident. We have transitioned seamlessly from an interiorised depiction of one womans ordeal to a more exterior perception of Janne, all the while knowing the turmoil that inhabits her. Now, in the subtle framing of the scene, under the eye of onlookers, Janne is just one other woman, a nameless individual, a nuisance, at the end of her tether.

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My streaming gem: why you should watch All Is Well - The Guardian

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Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero
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