Review: ‘The Stranger in Me’

Carl Folta

One of the best advertisements for contraception since "Rosemary's Baby," writer-helmer Emily Atef's sophomore feature, "The Stranger in Me," presents a pared-down portrait of one woman's harrowing struggle against the baby blues.

One of the best advertisements for contraception since “Rosemary’s Baby,” writer-helmer Emily Atef’s sophomore feature, “The Stranger in Me,” presents a pared-down portrait of one woman’s harrowing struggle against the baby blues. Never venturing beyond its clinical case-study scenario of postpartum depression, pic shows troubled protag going from glum to gloomier until she literally wallows in the mire midway through the narrative. B.O. prospects look slim for this uninspired downer; still, Euro tube and fests may find the subject matter suitable enough for adoption.

The “stranger” in question is, of course, the baby that young couple Rebecca (Susanne Wolff) and Julien (Johann von Bulow) have at the film’s start. Cuddly sprig leaves Rebecca in a sorry state that she only shakes after intensive therapy and a brief hospital stint. Outside its one-way storyline, pic offers the viewer next to nothing in terms of drama or character development: We never understand what, beyond child rearing, these young folks are even living for. Flat lensing and cheerless suburban setting seem ripe for TV, which is likely where this orphan will find its happiest home.

The Stranger in Me

Germany

Production

A Ventura Film release of a Niko Film, ZDF/Das kleine Fernsehspiel, DFFB production, in association with Arte. (International sales: Bavaria Film Intl., Munich.) Produced by Nicole Gerhards, Hanneke van der Tas. Directed by Emily Atef. Screenplay, Atef, Esther Bernstorff.

Crew

Camera (color), Henner Besuch; editor, Beatrice Babin; music, Manfred Eicher; production designer, Annette Lofy; costume designer, Anja Niehaus. Reviewed at Cinematheque Francaise, Paris, April 30, 2008. (In Cannes Film Festival -- Critics' Week.) Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Susanne Wolff, Johann von Bulow, Maren Kroymann, Hans Diehl, Judith Engel, Herbert Fritsch.

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