Jack is efficient and responsible beyond his years. He moves at lightning speed getting his brother and himself ready in the morning before school. It's the routine of his day and one he accepts without question. Ten years of age, he lives with his mother Sanna and five year old brother Manuel in a Berlin tower block. Life is happy enough and his mother adores them, as they do her. However, she is young and when pleasure calls, it doesn't occur to her that she needs to stay and take care of Jack and Manuel. She happily prances away to follow her friends and leaves it up to Jack to take his little brother home and to take care of him.
No matter how accomplished, Jack is still a child and due to an unfortunate occurrence, this young family find themselves in the waiting room of Social Services. Jack is sent away to a youth institution while Manuel is allowed to stay home with his mother.
The institution is pleasant enough and Jack starts to accept this is where he is, does his chores and looks forward to the holidays so he can go home to spend it with mum and Manuel. He meets a young boy with whom he has something in common; at the same time he is bullied by another who seems to have it in for him for no apparent reason. This leads to an unfortunate incident that has Jack on the run, in search of his mother who is nowhere to be found, his little brother in tow.
Part of the 2015 Audi Festival of German Films, the idea for this film came about when Director Edward Berger was playing football with his son in a meadow. A little boy walked past and waved hello to his son who waved back and called out 'Hi Jack'. He explained that Jack was always with his mother on the weekend and then goes back to the 'home' for the weekdays. Thus began the inception of this film. A fleeting vision in a brief encounter; a confident little boy marching into the future showed Edward Berger how one can believe in life with open eyes and unbroken strength.
Young newcomer Ivo Pietzcker in his lead role as Jack is amazingly accomplished in his performance, even though he's a newbie. In this harrowing role where he barely gets a chance to crack a smile, he plays his part perfectly to convey what he's going through. His little brother played by Georg Arms also manages to fulfil his role to be that totally cute, fully dependent young brother you just want to pick up and hug. The whole film is about Jack and his resourcefulness and resilience, the camera barely leaving his face, picking up every nuance of emotion he projects. Luise Heyer in the role of the mother Sanna, does not have a huge part to play.
This movie doesn't really go in-depth to develop the characters nor at times does it make it clear how certain conclusions were arrived at. As powerful as Jack's acting was, based on his performance alone, it could only hold my attention for so long before I tired just a little of watching scene after scene of Jack walking the streets in search of his mum.
There was a whole Pandora's box of untouched issues and emotions. I thought it was being presented too simplistically; a missed opportunity to really capture the audience's emotions. I felt more of an observer and not emotionally invested or engaged which I would have loved to have been. I wanted it to go one step deeper; for it to pull at my heartstrings and hang my heart out to dry, leaving it crying for more. This film is 103 minutes long, rated age 15 plus and contains a scene of full frontal nudity. I give this a 6.5 out of 10.
Catch this film during the Audi Festival of German Films which runs between the 13th and 31st of May. Check out the Goethe Institut Australien's new festival website for details of all 50 films being presented during this largest festival thus far that now includes Hobart and Byron Bay. Book ahead to avoid disappointment at participating Palace and Kino Cinemas as well as the Hophaus Deckchair cinema at Southbank Promenade for their special event presentation of Soul Kitchen.