'The Bloom of Yesterday': Seattle International Film Festival movie review
Who could have guessed a romantic-comedy-drama -- centered on two volatile characters digging up the horrors of the Holocaust -- could go off the rails so quickly? The German film "The Bloom of Yesterday" (screens during the 43rd Seattle International Film Festival starting May 22) tries to hit too many disparate notes and tones in telling a meandering, unsatisfying story about dealing with a horrific past.
In short: Short-tempered Holocaust researcher Toto (Lars Eidinger, "Personal Shopper") is forced to take on a confrontational intern Zazie (Adèle Haenel, "The Unknown Girl"). The pair continually butt heads as they begin to unravel their common bond rooted in the Holocaust.
The novelty of this film's meet cute wears off quickly. Twenty minutes into the movie, "Bloom" is merely a frustrated researching constantly chafing with his impulsive research assistant. Entire conversations ping back-and-forth between the bickering researcher and intern without moving the story forward much (if at all). It's tiring to wallow in conversations where the two just pass judgement on each other.
"Bloom" takes a full hour before the relationship between Toto and Zazie becomes intriguing -- a plot point that is just inelegantly dropped into the movie. There's very little lead up to the revelation - it just becomes a jarring plot twist, and it's merely the first of several. Late in the second act, an even more unjustified plot turn occurs when one of the characters ends up in a hospital. And because all good things happen in sets of three, another whiplash-inducing plot twist comes out of nowhere in the third act involving a character's past.
It aspires to achieve the odd trifecta of romance, drama and comedy - but in trying to achieve all three, it fails to succeed in any one of those genres with any effectiveness. The dramatic "sins of the past" underlying themes are undermined by conversations about buttholes. The romantic elements are cancelled out by an exhausting amount of bickering. Every attempt at slapstick fall flat because the humor is half-baked at best and at drastic odds with some very dark Nazi-themed plot points.
Despite solid lead performances and a witty script, the film's few strengths cannot make up for the underlying and prevalent structural deficiencies. Toto and Zazie trade fun, witty zingers - but whole scenes of their arguing do not move the needle much in any particular way: they seem to truly dislike one another, the arguments usually do not progress the story forward and the quarreling is simply repetitive. There's nothing playful in their bitter exchanges - it's just two people out to truly hurt the other. This makes the fighting less fun to sit through and makes the trajectory of their relationship that much more unbelievable.
Final verdict: A pair of strong lead performances, particularly from Haenel, save "Bloom" from completely losing its way.
"The Bloom of Yesterday" screens during SIFF 2017. This German dramatic comedy is unrated and has a running time of 120 minutes.