Lola (Valerie Pachner) is an overworked corporate consultant. She's based in Vienna, but is rarely there; she's more likely to be found in hotel rooms, airliners or working out of the offices of the companies she is trying to save from bankruptcy. In her rare moments of downtime, she heads for the gym, furiously working out until exhaustion. Lola's life is rigid and determined, destined for success, materially at least.
Her current assignment sees her commuting between Vienna and Rostock in Germany. She is trying to restructure a large company and the work is complex and all-consuming with long meetings, long hours and many consultations with her colleagues and clients. It's amid all this that Lola learns her sister has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Without hinting at the tumult in her personal life to her colleagues, Lola visits her sister Conny (Pia Hierzegger) back in Vienna. Conny's path in life has seen her become the polar opposite of her sister. Lola offers help, making plans to support Conny after she is discharged from the hospital.
But Lola's support doesn't come with spending a lot of time with Conny - she's soon back in Rostock and back to work. Here again, her personal life is beginning to complicate her work: Lola's having a clandestine love affair with her boss Elise (Mavie Horbiger). Elise is promising her advancement and career success, but it's around this time that things press harder on Lola and she begins to lose her own grip on reality.
Playing as part of the 2019 German Film Festival, and directed by Marie Kreutzer, The Ground Beneath My Feet is a smart and mature drama. While it assembles many of the familiar elements of a psychological thriller and leads the audience towards this path, it instead, surprisingly, turns back and does something different, presenting a much messier and realistic portrait.
The performances are wonderful, notably Valerie Pachner's lead as Lola, a hyper-competitive career woman who not only has to deal with the problems of her personal life, but also with a fair amount of chauvinistic bullshit which comes with being a powerful woman in the corporate world. Pia Hierzegger as the shattered Conny is also a standout, reflecting the horror mental illness can wreak on people's lives.
The Ground Beneath My Feet is a confident outing. It perhaps could say more: the storyline turns out to be fairly thin when everything is resolved. But what the film does say about mental illness, family bonds, and women in the corporate world, remains timely.
The Ground Beneath My Feet is playing nationally as part of the German Film Festival 2019.
Find information on session times, locations and tickets on the official website.