An idealistic German teacher’s innocent obsession with a bad-seed student has unanticipated ripple effects for his class and his life in fitfully absorbing vid-shot drama “Good Morning, Mister Grothe.” Leisurely where it should be urgent, vague when specifics are required, meandering effort is a sincere valentine to hard-working educators that will receive high fest marks before matriculating to ancillary.
“I like my prison camp,” recently separated teacher Michael Grothe (Sebastian Blomberg) tells his colleague and soon-to-be-lover Lisa Kranz (Nina Kunzendorf). He’s referring to the German class that seems more remedial detention for unruly and/or slow international students than a proper learning environment.
Chief among the teenage miscreants is Nico Brock (Ludwig Trepte), who’s first seen lifting his teacher’s wallet and has a strange fascination with the photo of Grothe’s young son he finds within. Even without Lisa’s goading, its clear Grothe sees Nico as a challenge, and violates his policy of not getting personally involved with kids by tutoring the teenager with J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.”
Pic proves slow going on all fronts. Grothe visits brusque ex-wife Sibylle (Nele Mueller-Stoefen) only to gain access to his son, while his initially promising relationship with Lisa disintegrates over their professional philosophical differences. He’s the only one who can’t see his rapidly growing obsession with reining in the mercurial Nico. “We’re here too, Mr. Grothe,” says an exasperated charge.
Stripped of any sexual overtones whatsoever, pic is at its best when exploring delicate interplay among Mr. Grothe and his students via well-played and astutely shot classroom sequences. Proceedings become unfocused during courtship of Lisa and very nearly run off the rails, but strong ending saves the day.
Tech credits are OK, with pic quality sacrificed in the name of nimble ensemble vid lensing.