"Heavy Girls"

A porcine mama's boy and the equally fat male nurse attending to the guy's aging mom make for one of recent cinema's odder couples in "Heavy Girls," a self-conscious slice of quirk from Berlin's indie corners.

A porcine mama’s boy and the equally fat male nurse attending to the guy’s aging mom make for one of recent cinema’s odder couples in “Heavy Girls,” a self-conscious slice of quirk from Berlin’s indie corners. Directly influenced by Danish vids-hot family dramedies, down to dialogue improvised by an acting company under Axel Ranisch’s loose direction, the pic falls into a pleasantly engaging niche of gay movies that can easily play to indie-prone crowds. Fest life has been erratic, but vid sales should be solid.

The film is set over the course of a few weeks in the life of Sven Ritter (Heiko Pinkowski). Each morning begins with a piquant, old-timey rendition of a Dvorak piece on the soundtrack, as Sven awakens next to his mom, Edeltraut (Ruth Bickelhaupt), who apparently suffers from dementia, though her ailment is never specified. Sven must remind her every day that he’s her son and that he has to go to the bank where he’s worked for 30 years. Just as regularly, male nurse Daniel (Peter Trabner) arrives just before Sven’s departure to take care of Edeltraut, who proves to be a handful.

Sven comically hides his attraction to Daniel, who’s married and has a son, but during a wild goose chase in the Berlin streets at night when the pair search for Edeltraut, Sven gets a bit more forthcoming with his desires. The actors’ clumsy physicality, the neutrally observant handheld camera (wielded by Ranisch, using what seems like deliberately low-grade video) and the ensemble’s improv mode lend the movie a sense of moment-by-moment surprise that only occasionally feels forced.

Daniel eventually breaks out of his shell in a sequence that almost causes the film to run off the rails, but allows for the subsequent sequences to develop of their own accord. The rest of “Heavy Girls” plays out the guys’ unlikely romance, which includes chatter about getting away to Oz and back-to-the-earth rites involving getting naked and jumping into an ice-cold lake. The ending may strike some viewers as credible, others merely as an upbeat device to wrap things up.

A huge (literally) amount of the pic’s effect flows from the combined life forces of Pinkowski, Trabner and Bickelhaupt. The male leads, who share credit for the script with Ranisch, often circle each other uneasily, sometimes acting out like teens as they test boundaries and proclivities; it’s an amusing study in male bonding taken to a modestly absurd level.

Handling many of the filmmaking chores himself, Ranisch keeps the proceedings compact and efficient (including the 79-minute running time), yet loose enough for goofy interludes and pure spontaneity. Lensing appears to have been managed with natural light and existing sources, stressing tight living quarters, fleshy bodies and everyday reality.

Heavy Girls

Germany

Production

A Sehr Gute Filme presentation. Produced by Dennis Pauls, Heiko Pinkowski, Axel Ranisch, Anne Baeker. Directed by Axel Ranisch. Screenplay, Ranisch, Heiko Pinkowski, Peter Trabner, based on the story "La tetas de mi madre" by Ricardo Zamora.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Ranisch; editor, Guernica Zimgabel, Milenka Nawka; sound (stereo), Ranisch; re-recording mixer, Johannes Varga. Reviewed on DVD, Los Angeles, July 27, 2012. (In Outfest, Slamdance film festivals.) Running time: 79 MIN.

With

Heiko Pinkowski, Peter Trabner, Ruth Bickelhaupt, Paul Pinkowski. (German, English dialogue)
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