'Berlin, I Love You': Film Review

Not worth the visit.
2/8/2019

Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Luke Wilson, Mickey Rourke, Jenna Dewan, Diego Luna and Jim Sturgess are among the stars of this latest installment of the anthology film series set in international cities.

Most anthology films give you the comfort of knowing that if you don't like one segment, another one will be following in just a few minutes. Berlin, I Love You perversely does the opposite. It makes you nervous that if you don't like one segment, which you surely won't, another mediocre-to-awful one will follow.

The latest installment in a dubious franchise revolving around love stories set in international cities (previous entries include Paris, Je T'Aime and New York, I Love You, although thankfully theatrical audiences seem to have been spared 2014's Tbilisi, I Love You), this film, like the others, is intended as a valentine to its setting. Unfortunately, it feels more like a poison pen letter.

A considerable array of talent has been assembled for this edition featuring 10 separate stories, including directors Peter Chelsom, Dennis Gansel and Til Schweiger; actors Helen Mirren, Mickey Rourke, Keira Knightley, Luke Wilson, Diego Luna; and screenwriter Neil LaBute, among many others. But their efforts come for naught in this wildly uneven exercise.

After an animated opening depicting the city's historical highlights, the movie begins with a segment involving two characters who act as a throughline, their story popping up periodically throughout. They're a male mime (Robert Stadlober) who wears angel wings resembling the ones in Wings of Desire (the ill-advised visual reference does this film no favors) and a female Israeli street singer (Rafaelle Cohen) newly arrived in the city. That they'll fall into each other's arms by the end of the film is a given, but never do we truly care.

Some of the stories have an odd charm, such as the one involving a heartbroken young man (Jim Sturgess) who finds a new reason to live thanks to a miraculous talking car who refuses to let him commit suicide by driving off a bridge. "Excuse me for saying this, but she's a bitch," the BMW comments about the woman who broke her driver's heart. There's also a quietly touching encounter between an 18-year-old boy celebrating his birthday and a drag queen (Diego Luna) whom he meets and asks for a kiss. 

Others are slight but harmless, such as the encounter of a burnt-out Hollywood producer (is there any other kind?) played by Luke Wilson and a beautiful young puppeteer (is there any other kind?) played by Dianna Agron (who also directed) who gives him creative and emotional inspiration.  

Immigration, a hotbed issue in Germany these days, is mildly addressed in a few segments, including one involving a refugee center worker (Knightley) who brings a young Arab boy home temporarily, much to her mother's (Mirren) disapproval. Care to guess whether the mother warms up to her adorable young houseguest by the time it ends?

The most egregious chapter features Rourke as an American businessman who gets unaccountably hit on by a gorgeous, much younger woman (Toni Garnn) in a hotel bar. After telling her a sorrowful story about how he's never been able to get over his regret for not having been able to know his daughter whose custody he lost when she was a child, the young woman agrees to go to his hotel room. The segment was scripted by LaBute, who specializes in shocking twist endings, but this one you can see coming from the very beginning. And if you ever wanted to see Rourke in his tighty-whiteys, here's your chance.  

Besides its narrative deficiencies, the anothology film fails in its central goal of making you fall in love with the locale in which it's set. Despite Kolja Brandt's handsome cinematography, Berlin, I Love you provides little sense of the city's atmosphere or character. Other than a few moments, it might as easily been set in any large city. But Vancouver, I Love You just doesn't look as sexy on a marquee.

Production companies: Bily Media Berlin, Rheingold Films, Shotz Fiction Film, Walk on Water Filmproduction, Getaway Pictures, Ever So Close
Distributor: Saban Films
Cast: Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Luke Wilson, Mickey Rourke, Jenna Dewan, Diego Luna, Jim Sturgess, Nolan Funk, Charlotte Le Bon, Iwan Rheon
Directors: Dianna Agron, Peter Chelsom, Claus Clausen, Fernando Eimbcke, Justin Franklin, Dennis Gansel, Dani Levy, Daniel Lwowski, Stephanie Martin, Josef Rusnak, Til Schweiger, Massy Tadjedin
Screenwriters: Claus Clausen, Fernando Eimbcke, Dennis Gansel, Neil LaBute, Dani Levy, Rebecca Rahn, Edda Reiser, Massy Tadjedin, David Vernon
Producers: Claus Clausen, Edda Reiser
Executive producers: Emmanuel Bernbihy, Jeffrey Konvitz, Jeff Geoffray, Daniel Rainey, Alice de Sousa, Arianne Fraser, Delphine Perrier, Glenn Ackermann, Jason Piette, Ivan Gulas, Krisztina Endrenyi, Gyorgy Gattyan, Till Neumann, Steffen Aumuller, Daniel Lwowski
Director of photography: Kolja Brandt
Production designer: Albrecht Konrad
Editors: Peter R. Adam, Christoph Strothjohann
Composers: Tom Batoy, Franco Tortora|
Costume designer: Heike Fademrecht

Rated R, 120 minutes