Netflixable? Sexual assault survivor clings to the idea that “All is Well (“Alles ist Gut”)

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Janne is reserved, even on a good day.

She goes along to get along, and only seems OK with the idea of moving from the big city (Munich) to an old farmhouse in Bavaria.

Selling their flat, making arrangements with brokers, all of that seems more Piet’s thing.

He gets her an old piano to sweeten the idea of the move.

“Happy?” he asks (in German, with English subtitles) after she’s pounded the keys for a moment. Janne just smirks and shakes her head.

“All is well (Alles ist gut),” she’ll say, calming troubled waters, soothing over a heated argument. This is the default mode for Janne, given a soft brittleness by Aenne Schwarz in the German drama “All is Well.” 

How will this internalize-everything writer/editor handle being sexually assaulted?

The debut feature by writer-director Eva Trobish is a 90 minute essay in denial and suppressed pain, almost a study in German stoicism as we watch, with dread, what unfolds and see the deflating aftermath of a rape. And Schwarz plays Janne with tense reserve, a kind of defiant embarrassment, that anchors the film.

A chance encounter and job offer from a man she used to babysit for dings her moving plans with Piet (Andreas Döhler). At least in his eyes.  Robert (Tilo Nest) is in publishing, and Janne has the chance to ghostwrite and edit for the firm.

Robert’s married a highly-strung much younger second wife (Lisa Hagmeister). Her brother, Martin (Hans Löw) also has a job in the publishing house.

Martin is the one Janne runs into at her class reunion, the one she dances with once and has a drink or two with.

Martin is the one she invites over to sleep it off. Martin is the man who assaults her.

Assaults in the movies are often over-the-top, and this one is violent, if not frantic or life-threatening. Trobisch parks this well within the realm of what we used to dismiss as “date rape,” which makes it more chilling than violent, if still upsetting in the extreme.

Janne is trying to get the very tall Martin to call it a night. And he just won’t.

She laughs him off  at first, then his persistence makes her dismissive.

“You talk to me as if I was 5.”

“Then don’t act like it.”

Her forced-smile and eye-rolling reveals her calculations. He’s too big. He’s not listening.

Screaming or raising her voice never enters her mind.

“I don’t think I want to…No…Are you SERIOUS?”

His grappling bruises her, which becomes the only thing she feels the need to explain to Robert or Piet — “A sharp edge happened out of the blue.”

She confides, halfway, to her mother (Lina Wendel) in a sauna. She lies, even as Mother asks more and more questions.

She accepts the job offer, but Robert doesn’t know. Piet, a bit of a hothead, doesn’t pick up on anything. Even when she orders vegetarian and the waiter brings her meat and she doesn’t send it back, he’s clueless.

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And then there are the encounters, at the office, going with Robert to the theater, sitting tensely through a production of “Nora” while the rapist/brother-in-law sits right next to her.

Did she accept the job without considering this, or to torment her attacker? Löw lets us, and her, see Martin sweat. Will this be the extent of his “consequences?”

Trobisch and Schwarz, meanwhile, let us feel the tension rising within Janne, the disharmony that spills over into the rest of her life, the ripples of contained fury, hurt and hardship that spread out from this horrible thing that happened.

It’s not a vengeance tale, not a film with much in the line of dramatic explosions. But “All is Well/Alles ist gut” feels real, lived in and endured.

And that, in the end, is its message, the no-going-back horror of realizing that life has changed and justice may never come your way and nothing you say or don’t say will fix that.

3stars2

MPAA rating: TV-MA, sexual violence

Cast: Aenne Schwarz, Andreas Döhler, Hans Löw

Credits: Written and directed by Eva Trobisch. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:33

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