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MOVIE REVIEW

Everyone Else

Exploring the place where happy together breaks apart

Birgit Minichmayr and Lars Eidinger play a couple taking slow steps toward a breakup. Birgit Minichmayr and Lars Eidinger play a couple taking slow steps toward a breakup. (The Cinema Guild)
By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / July 23, 2010

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In “Everyone Else,’’ a German couple languishes at a villa in Sardinia. They’re on vacation, and they appear to be happy together, except when they aren’t. The film is part breakup movie, part romantic getaway. When it’s which depends solely on personal temperament.

The trip becomes a sudden microcosm of the almost hourly shifts in their relationship; the rocks and crags and brush and gorgeous vistas double quietly as semaphores. The couple is Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr), a loud, strapping, extroverted woman, and Chris (Lars Eidinger), who’s lanky, sensitive, and comparatively withdrawn. Some of the appeal in surveying the vicissitudes of their love is voyeuristic: It’s not your relationship. Which gets at the film’s less-comfortable allure: It could be.

Gitti and Chris don’t seem to have been together long, and this trip away gives them plenty of room to ruminate, emote, and overreact while discovering each other. The ongoing tension between them is a question of roles. She puts a little makeup on him, which he seems fine with. But eventually he wonders if she finds him masculine enough. “Do something masculine, and I’ll tell you,’’ she says, almost as a taunt. She’s tough. He isn’t. She’s a touch vulgar, more than a bit rock ’n’ roll. He has a graduate student’s snobby air. But neither’s traits are fixed. Her insecurity borders on instability. His coldness seems almost pathological. But then, so does her short temper. One night, Gitti begs Chris to go dancing, and before they leave, he says something to her in Italian that sounds sexy. Rather than ask what it is, she tells him to speak German.

You spend the film accumulating the many little ways they are different until you can’t quite understand why they’re together at all — even though the sex is good, intense, and bountiful. But the director Maren Ade makes the shrewd choice to situate the relationship in the realm of realism. We never really know what keeps two people together or what drives them apart. Ade’s camera follows and watches. She leaves the scenes inflected only with behavior, the nuances of which she proves remarkably adept at capturing. Some Germans devote leisure time to bird-watching in Sardinia. This movie feels like a natural extension of that hobby.

Chris and Gitti spend the trip avoiding his acquaintance Hans (Hans-Jochen Wagner). They turn it into a game that she ap pears to enjoy playing. So imagine her surprise when Chris calls her an embarrassment after they wind up at dinner with Hans and his pregnant fashion-designer girlfriend (Nicole Marischka). Minichmayr handles these and other moments with a perfect blend of nausea and aplomb. Hers is a delicate balance of too much and perfect emotional pitch. If, while watching her with Eidinger, you wonder why or whether Chris loves her, it’s not because Minichmayr is a bad actor (she’s excellent). It’s because Gitti might be bad for him.

The possibility exists that these two make for exasperating moviegoing. My seatmate watched desperate for a murder — or anything that means something is happening. But “Everyone Else’’ is not about hurricanes and earthquakes and knives in the back. It’s about private, emotional phenomena: the tiny tremors and imperceptible shifts that bring a couple closer together or drive them apart, almost without their noticing.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/wesley_morris.

EVERYONE ELSE

Written and directed by:

Maren Ade

Starring: Birgit Minichmayr

and Lars Eidinger

At: Kendall Square

Running time: 123 minutes

In German,

with English subtitles

Unrated (nudity of the physical and emotional variety)

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