2007, Movie, R, 97 mins


German writer-director Angelina Maccarone's deceptively slight drama unfolds in overlapping parts told from three points of view, one for each of a trio of very different women whose destinies intersect on the road from Germany to The Nehterlands.

It's Christmas Eve in Pulheim, a dreary suburb of Cologne, and Francesca Conchiglia (Esther Zimmering) is preparing dinner for her Italian-born father (Aykut Kayacik) and 17-year-old sister, Antonietta (Kim Schnitzer). Their German mother abandoned her family when Antonietta was three and Francesca was ten; responsible Francesca, now a cab driver with no time for love, took over running the household and caring for her little sister, but Antoinetta was always the apple of their father's eye. So when crazy-in-love Antoinetta sneaks out to see her boyfriend's (Egbert Jan Weeber) band, Blue Bones, perform in Rotterdam, he dispatches Francesca to bring her back. En route, Francesca gives a lift to Gerlinde (Hannelore Elsner), an older businesswoman who's been in a car accident; Gerlinde refuses hospital care and persuades Francesca to let her ride along. She gradually reveals the reason she's on the road: Her longtime lover, Inga, chose the night before Christmas to tell Gerlinde she's never going to leave her husband. Francesca drops Gerlinde at a Rotterdam hotel and heads for the club where Blue Bones is playing, but she's too late: The show's over.

The second version of the story is told from Gerlinde's perspective, and the third from Antoinetta's; each adds details that fill in the gaps in Francesca's story and casts various incidents and encounters in a very different light. Maccarone's plot is built out of encounters and revelations that are simultaneously minor and life-altering: No-one dies or gets caught up in an escalating spiral of violence, but all three women are forced to think about the choices they've made and are going to make. Their stories play out largely against a backdrop of dark, heavily trafficked roads, an inky landscape of red and white lights and the occasional harsh, florescent glow of an all-night rest stop. The metaphor isn't subtle. But the dialogue and performances are, and the film's resolution is both haunting and satisfying. (In subtitled German, Dutch and Italian, and English) leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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