Life Is All You Get Review

Life Is All You Get
After he loses his job, his father, and his girlfriend, Jan's life is a shambles. Then suddenly he meets freakish street musician Vera, and a bittersweet romance unfolds...

by Julie Stevens |
Published on
Release Date:

17 Jul 1998

Running Time:

115 minutes



Original Title:

Life Is All You Get

Having cast an envious eye Blighty-wards and spotted a film industry booming on the back of its kitchen sink comedies, it's perhaps no surprise that Wolfgang Becker's German export flagrantly tries to imitate the formula in the pursuit of international success.

But since the words "German" and "comedy" have never enjoyed much of an association in the eyes of the world, it's little wonder that Becker's offering - a tale of lowly Berliners struggling to come to terms with the twists, turns and savagery of modern life in their reunified crossroads city - is less in the style of The Full Monty and more a comprehensive hijack of the territory inhabited by Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. But without the laughs.

Around the very British style, hangs a series of anecdotal episodes involving dreamy, out-of-work butcher Jan Nebel (Vogel). Down on his luck, Jan quite literally runs into Vera (Paul), the love of his life, in the midst of a Berlin riot. During the course of the pair's up-and-down affair, Jan - who may or may not be HIV positive following a brief liaison with an abattoir worker - is befriended by ageing teddy boy Buddy (Loach regular Tomlinson, here dubbed into German) and has to cope with the faintly comical death of his father, along with the ongoing integration of his immediate family ties.

It's hardly knockabout material and for the most part Becker's pacy feature errs on the side of kitchenette drama with just a few sight gags thrown in for good measure.

Featuring topnotch work from a lively cast - and that includes Tomlinson, who transcends the language barrier to shine brightly - there's still a lot to be said for a quietly impressive little urban drama, which proves if German cinema is looking to rediscover its place in the world, then Life Is All You Get isn't a bad starting point.
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