Contempo drama is a different sort of coming-of-ager.

A different sort of coming-of-ager, contempo drama “Run, if You Can” centers on three smart twentysomethings poised to move on to another phase of life. First theatrical feature from young Teuton helmer Dietrich Brueggemann (sharing writing honors on a pleasingly full-circle script with his thesp sister Anna) offers witty dialogue and appealing performances in a romantic triangle with a twist, while the underlying theme of overcoming one’s physical and mental limitations lends the small but affecting pic an additional marketing hook. After a limited German rollout this summer, expect “Run” to glide into further fests, with extended Euro ancillary life.

In the industrial northern Rhine city of Duisburg, tart-tongued, wheelchair-bound paraplegic Ben (Robert Gwisdek) is finishing his master’s thesis and making life difficult for his assistants. But Ben meets his match when he’s assigned easygoing Christian (Jacob Matschenz), an aspiring medical student unwilling to be drawn into his power games.

The growing friendship between the two young men is strained when they both take a shine to Annika (Anna Brueggemann), a pretty cellist with a bad case of performance anxiety. Annika likes the playful Christian, but she’s also drawn to the prickly Ben, whose verbal brilliance and appreciation for music makes her overlook his handicap.

Aiming for an offbeat tone, director Brueggemann successfully injects the realist material with black humor and some almost-screwball physical comedy that occasionally falls flat. He also incorporates numerous authentic details of life lived with a severe disability.

Although both Anna Brueggemann and Matschenz provide sympathetic screen presences, thesping honors belong to thin, lanky Gwisdek (son of popular actors Michael Gwisdek and Corinna Harfouch). Physically convincing as a paraplegic, he conveys Ben’s hopes, fears and frustrations with a performance of great delicacy and dexterity.

HD lensing by Alexander Sass (the helmer’s film school classmate) done mostly in intimate closeup, keeps the focus on the acting. The sparsely used music track alternates between classical string numbers and bland pop tunes with English lyrics. Other tech credits are fine.

Run, if You Can

Germany

Production

A Zorro Film release of a Wuste Film Ost production, in co-production with Wuste Film West, SWR Debut im Dritten, WDR, Arte, with the support of MBB, Filmstiftung NRW, BMK, FFA, DFFF. Produced by Ralph Schwingel, Sabine Holtgreve, Stefan Schubert. Co-producer, Hejo Emos. Directed by Dietrich Brueggemann. Screenplay, Dietrich Brueggemann, Anna Brueggemann.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, HD-to-35mm), Alexander Sass; editor, Vincent Assmann; production designer, Christiane Krumwiede; costume designer, Juliane Maier; sound (Dolby Digital), Martin Fruhmorgen, Jacob Ilgner. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Perspektive Deutsches Kino, opener), Feb. 12, 2010. Running time: 112 MIN.

With

Robert Gwisdek, Anna Brueggemann, Jacob Matschenz, Franziska Weisz, Leslie Malton, Michael Sens.

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