QUICK SNAP: LIVE FROM BERLIN!
A stands for Anna (Sophie Rois) and Adrian (Milan Herms).
E stands for Elocution: troubled teen Adrian has a problem with pronunciation, so it’s up to the past-it, middle-aged actress Anna to teach him how to project his words on stage for his high school play.
I stands for Inhibitions: while working together, they slowly lose them, resulting in a delirious, oddball romance.
O stands for “Oh My God”: words I uttered regularly as the film constantly engaged in cringe-worthy storytelling techniques.
And U stands for Udo Kier: Anna’s landlord and confidant who provided the biggest laughs simply by looking and reacting at things. He’s a great screen presence, but was mostly underused.
This is a quick alphabet of love, with only the vowels needed. It makes sense when you think about it: with one fricative notwithstanding, they are the vowels most commonly used while in the throes of love-making. But this is a talky, playful film, filled with consonants too, as the young boy and the older woman slowly navigate their sort-of inappropriate romance, taking them from the streets of Berlin to the beaches of southern France. At once enjoyable, pleasant and easy-going, as well as occasionally dipping into unearned, hands-over-eyes sentimentality, Alphabet of Love, or Licorice Flammkuchen, is unlikely to set the world on fire, but still is an interesting take on spring-autumn romance.
Y isn’t a German vowel, and it isn’t much of a question in the film either, which starts off as a conventional navigation of social mores before moving into pure fantasy territory, finally dipping into one of the most amiable of genres: the Cote D’Azur criminal con-man genre; glittering hotels and casinos galore. Director Nicolette Krebitz starts by the idyllic Mediterranean, Anna looking at a police-line up of five guys, each holding up one of the five German syllables. Adrian is in the line-up but Anna is giving nothing away, before the film cuts back to how they first meet, the young lad mugging her outside of Paris Bar, Berlin.
He’s a troubled child — although a psychologically vacuous one — and she’s an intemperate former star, once a marquee name but now forced to work as a speech therapist. Adrian comes from a foster family, with his odds stacked against him from the beginning, whereas Anna once had it all but suffered the same fate many women do once they go past a certain age. It makes for an interesting coupling, but the conversations and actions are more focused on quirky details — like where Anna hides her cigarettes, or Adrian’s pickpocketing skills — than bringing this conflict into view. I can’t say that I minded, with the film often working best in its final, more fantastical sequences than during the staid, clichéd parts earlier on. Ending on the use of one of my all-time favourite songs, this is the kind of love story that won’t change your life, but makes for a fun date night watch. Just don’t take your mother.
A E I O U – A Quick Alphabet of Love plays in competition at Berlin Film Festival, running from 10-20th February.