The first time I heard of Everyone Else was when an American critic called it “the German answer to Blue Valentine.” The description caught my attention, even though it’s far from true: among other things, Everyone Else was released in Germany in 2009, a full year before Blue Valentine. Both are breakup movies, but Everyone Else has a more naturalistic feel that feels quintessentially European. And no cute ukulele numbers!
Chris (Lars Eidinger) and Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr) are spending vacation at a summer house in Sardinia that belongs to Chris’s parents. They have been together long enough that small gestures are sufficient to indicate the connection between them: she plays with her food, he laughs; he makes a small toy out of ginger, she gleefully plays with it. They have been together long enough that the differences between them have become either tolerable or increasingly exasperating. It’s the latter that will happen more and more over the next few days.
Chris is a talented but unsuccessful architect, and the lack of recognition is weighing on him. Gitti’s small joke of putting makeup on him leads him to ask her, “Do you ever think I’m masculine?” Gitti, carefree, not measuring her words, ends up giving him a much deeper (and more hurtful) answer than Chris would like to hear. After Chris meets a couple of friends who are also on vacation, the differences between him and Gitti are accentuated even more. Hans is also an architect, but more successful; this causes Chris to both admire and resent him. Gitti couldn’t care less about the other couple, considering them pompous and boring.
Chris and Gitti genuinely care for each other, but the criticisms are much sharper and more pointed than the praise. They might say “Ich liebe dich so (I love you so)”often, but how much they really mean it? Their hurtful comments, on the other hand are filled with truth.
Is Everyone Else a cynical movie? Is the title cynical? Having had my share of long term relationships, I found it quite real (and could see myself in both halves of the couple). It’s clear that Maren Ade’s script is more on Gitti’s side, but neither she nor Chris are bad people. What becomes more and more evident during those sunny days in Italy is that they have become emotionally dependent on one another. And during a heartbreaking scene set to as song by Herbert Grönemeyer, one of the most popular singers in Germany, they look at each other, wordless, knowing that what they had is no more.
This is Ade’s second film. Six years passed between her debut and this; it was another seven years before she released her third movie and masterpiece, Toni Erdmann. Everyone Else is nowhere near as funny as Toni Erdmann (and it doesn’t want to be). But Ade’s magnificent eye for human relationships is already there. It’s filled with those small, piercing moments that can set a couple apart until they look at each other and wonder: what am I doing with you? And to get to that point, the movie is all about another question: what am I doing to you?