Magazine article Screen International

'We Were Just Playing': Munich Review

Magazine article Screen International

'We Were Just Playing': Munich Review

Article excerpt

Two boys, one German and one Ukranian, forge an unlikely friendship

We Were Just Playing

Dir Ann-Kristin Reyels. Germany. 2018. 87mins

Eternal aspects of family strife are folded into less familiar elements of modern European life in We Were Just Playing (Wir Haben Nur Gespielt). The third feature from Ann-Kristin Reyels (Hounds, Frontera) is an intriguing, quietly observed rite of passage drama marked by able performances and an atmospheric use of backwater locations.Low-key and underdeveloped in places, it should still find a welcome among festivals; especially those aimed at younger audiences.

The film is on sure ground when it focuses on the unexpected union of these very different lives

Reyels son Finn-Henry portrays Jona, a lonely 10 year-old who is spending a restless summer holiday with his mother Eva (Silke Bondenbender) and her new partner Robert (Godehard Giese). Everyone is walking on eggshells as they adjust to the new family dynamic. Jona is frequently left to his own devices during their stay in a part of rural Germany close to the border with the Czech Republic. Drifting to the nearest village and a group of children playing football, Jonah is especially drawn to the slightly older, intimidating Roman ( Roman Bkhavnani); a Ukranian boy at the mercy of a local thug.

The contrast in their personalities reflects the two worlds that clash when they meet. Jona is a naive and trusting innocent, wide-eyed in a world that feels like a big adventure playground. Roman is wary and watchful, carrying the cynicism of someone who has witnessed too much for their tender years. We are left to imagine what he is made to do for the mysterious male strangers who welcome him into their cars, reminding him first to wash his hands. …

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