A slight story is repeated through several perspectives to not very impressive effect in German filmmaker Angelina Maccarone's drama about a fateful evening experienced by three women in varying states of emotional distress. Although beautifully photographed and featuring excellent performances by its trio of lead actresses, "Vivere" ultimately adds up to less than the sum of its parts.
When teenage Antonietta (Kim Schnitzer) impulsively takes off to Rotterdam to visit her rocker boyfriend on Christmas Eve, her older sister, a taxi driver named Franceca (Esther Zimmering), is dispatched by their father to retrieve her. Along the way, she stops to help an older woman, Gerlinde (Hannelore Elsner), who has been injured in a car crash.
The three women eventually form a bond fueled by such traumatic situations as Antonietta's unwanted pregnancy and Gerlinde's abandonment by her married lesbian lover. But they learn to cope with their heartaches through mutual support and activities like staring meaningfully at the starry sky.
The film repeatedly doubles back on itself to relate the same events through the eyes of the various participants, taking pains to fill in holes in the story line along the way. But the narrative is ultimately not sturdy enough to sustain this "Rashomon"-style approach, with the result that the proceedings feel far more repetitive than revelatory.
Although there is some emotional resonance to found in the pungent dialogue and characterizations, the overall pretentiousness detracts from the impact. The film is best appreciated for the performance by the veteran actress Elsner, who infuses every facial expression and gesture with subtle depths of feeling.