Same Same But Different -- Film Review

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TORONTO -- Kate Winslet won all the accolades for her performance in "The Reader," but it was the young German actor David Kross who did equal amounts of heavy lifting as he played her boyish lover, who was later shocked to learn of her Nazi-era past. So the interest in this new German film, "Same Same But Different," which played in Toronto after its Locarno debut, was to see how he does in another lead role.

The part is in many ways similar, with youthful naivete again the main spring for a story about a fateful, passionate love. Kross makes convincing a seemingly impossible innocence mixed in with youthful hijinks involving risky travel, sex and drugs. And, again, much of the time he is acting in English.

The film is based on a memoir by Benjamin Pruefer, who in his early 20's traveled to Southeast Asia looking for trouble only to fall in love with a Cambodian bar girl. He paid her for sex but wound up with love as the two fell for each other.

Kross and Thai actress Apinya Sakuljaroensuk play off each other wonderfully. Both are little more than kids in appearance but their characters in real life faced tremendous problems when Ben returned to Hamburg and Sreykeo discovered she was HIV-positive.

The film devolves too quickly into practical matters of finding the right drugs for Sreykeo and puzzling out how to make an international relationship work as Ben seeks to do the right thing by the young woman he genuinely loves. But there is real feeling in the acting.

Director Detlev Buck and writer Ruth Toma invest considerable emotions and no little realism in an unblinking depiction of Third World wretchedness and the western sex tourism that gets off on flirting with potential disaster.

Shooting in Germany, Cambodia and Malaysia, the film establishes a world apart from the pristine soullessness of Hamburg. And David Kross proves "The Reader" was no mistake: He is indeed an actor to watch.

Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production company: Boje Buck Produktion GmbH
Cast: David Kross, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Stefan Konarske, Jens Harzer, Wanda Badwal
Director: Detlev Buck
Screenwriter: Ruth Toma
Based on the book by: Benjamin Pruefer
Producer: Claus Boje
Director of photography: Jana Marsik
Production designer: Udo Kramer
Music: Konstantin Gropper, Bert Werde
Costume designer: Bisrat Negasi
Editor: Dick Grau
Sales: Films Distribution
No rating, 107 minutes