Berlin 2023

Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything review – gorgeous but far too simple storytelling

Emily Atef's sexually-charged adaptation of the 2011 novel is atmospheric and watchable, but feels too light and repetitive

The new film from the German-French-Iranian and More Than Ever director Emily Atef, based on the 2011 novel Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything by Daniela Krien, is one of frustrating it's fine-ness: watchable, gorgeous to look at, set at a fascinating historical crossroads following the fall of the Berlin Wall, though perpetually floundering in a middle ground where real intrigue or investment in the characters seems forever out of reach.

The problem might be the material itself, which at times feels like the stuff of a Mills & Boon paperback: Maria is the beautiful 17-year-old girl who lives with her boyfriend and his family in the country, on the border between East and West Germany, drawn broadly as a restless, moody teen on the cusp of womanhood who just wants to be left alone to read her novels. Henner (Felix Kramer) is the brooding, grizzled farmer-type next door, with whom a chance encounter arouses in Maria a taste for rough sex that leaves her battered and bruised.

Atef has claimed she set out to make something “taboo-breaking.” But there's a sense the film think it's a lot more risqué than it actually is, with nuts and bolts that feel plied from a YA novel (with all the hand-trailing-through-the-cornfield shots to prove it), and characters that never feel fleshed out enough to make us care about what happens to them. While early sex scenes do have a real charge, they begin to lose their impact as the film gets caught in a repetitive cycle. At the same time, attempts to draw lines between the uneasy reunification between East and West and our central couple (and their age gap) all but fade into the background, leaving it feeling undercooked as a historical allegory, too.

It's a shame, since there's plenty to admire in the filmmaking itself – especially the lush cinematography by Armin Dierolf, which finds interesting juxtapositions in the dark interiors and golden meadows, and the overall production design and mood, which is well attuned to a particular sense of time and place, one way of life caving in to make way for another, and all the excitement and anxiety that goes with it. But Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything is watched at arm's length; in spite of its explicit intent, it's too lightweight to make a lasting impression.

Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything was screened as part of the Berlin Film Festival 2023. A UK release date is yet to be announced.

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