A young German couple enjoy the fleeting pleasures of a Mediterranean vacation. They seem happy enough, but momentary clues lead us to believe otherwise. A dagger has already pierced this relationship’s heart, and Maren Ade’s sobering masterwork Everyone Else charts the unspoken betrayals slowly twisting this mortal weapon deeper. The film begins with a misleading family portrait. Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr) and Chris (Lars Eidinger) appear entrenched in their daily routine, mother tending to a young girl’s whiney whims and father resting on the couch with a beautiful baby asleep on his chest. But this “family” is revealed to be a temporary unit when Chris’ older sister returns to pick up her children.This situation has been a mere exercise in forced babysitting, a bump in the road.
Gitti and Chris return to soaking in the sun and lounging in his mother’s expansive villa. And over the next two hours, Ade slowly chips away at their relationship through small moments of inaction, whittling away at its emotional facade, piercing through the small talk and promises until a devastatingly mangled core is revealed. In this sense, Everyone Else acts as the silent assassin of relationship films, achieving an astoundingly candid account of a couple slowly disintegrating before our very eyes. It hurts on many levels, and I saw my worst emotional impulses oozing from the fringes of each conversation.
Ade makes it clear Gitti and Chris like to dance around each other, using silliness and sex to cover up whatever insecurities they feel. This very shaky tightrope bends with the even a whisper of commitment, ideology, or desire. We don’t know how long they’ve been together, or how deep their connection runs. But Ade makes an effort to show the surface level spark, the physical attraction that clashed them together in a German nightclub not too long ago. The flip-side of this coin is heartbreaking, best (or worst) on display as Chris alienates Gitti in front of a successful old classmate named Hans (hans Jochen-Wagner), hoping to cover up his continuing failure as an artist. If not equally culpable, Gitti is certainly rigid in her reactions to Chris’ weaknesses, turning uncomfortable social situations into full blown battle-lines. Their strangled emotions, compromised beliefs ring out like cannons firing across friendly bows.
During the wrenching final act, Ade jettisons her characters into an unflinching silent stand off, and even when hurtful words are spewed, they seem destined to only speak half-truths. Everyone Else turns into a requiem for emotional connection, destroying the traditional cinematic bridges that comfortably link characters in our celluloid dreams. Like Gitti and Chris, we sit there suffering, hoping, and waiting for “the moment” that will make everything alright. It doesn’t come, and Ade weaves a mosaic of doubt and uncertainty, her distraught characters unable swim together in these particular waters due to anchors of their own making.