Credit: Pandora Films/Row Pictures
by Fred Barrett Featured Film Horizon Line

Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything — Emily Atef

June 3, 2024

If the recurring discourse cycles of online spaces, namely on Twitter, are to be believed, we are in for some seriously prudish times. Every so often, a tweet will make the rounds, decrying displays of overt sexuality as unnecessary hindrances to otherwise well-running narratives. The technical descriptor, “well-running,” feels appropriate, as art is increasingly flattened into “content” — a commodity to consume, stripped of its inherent ability to communicate and articulate a broad spectrum of human (and non-human) experience, including the parts of ourselves we might find troubling. Add to that an aversion to any form of even momentary discomfort, and the widespread popularity of children’s media amongst adult audiences begins to make a little more sense.

Far beyond the zoomers calling for the reinstatement of the Hays Code, though, exists Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything, German-French-Iranian filmmaker Emily Atef’s adaptation of Daniela Krien’s 2011 novel of the same name. Dripping with sensuality, the film chronicles the May-December romance between Maria (Marlene Burow), a bright but directionless girl in her late teens, and Henner (Felix Kramer), a charismatic farmer more than twice her age, all set against the final days of the German Democratic Republic and early days of German reunification. If Someday‘s myriad sex scenes weren’t enough to turn off the new puritans, then the age gap — an issue regularly brought up in discourse that is no less tedious — is sure to keep them away.

Given the dismal state of eroticism in film, it would be nice to have nothing but good things to say about a drama as unapologetically sexual as this, and indeed there are things to praise. Firstly, Afet’s use of sex scenes is a prime example of how valuable eroticism can be, even in the most narrow narrative sense. The character dynamics shift, their relationships deepen and deteriorate with every encounter they share — or are deprived of. Maria’s first encounter with Henner is a rather carnal affair, while her first on-screen tryst with boyfriend Johannes (Cedric Eich) is striking in its tangible intimacy. Watching the two young, giggly lovers playfully undress each other, grins spread wide across their fresh faces, it’s clear that the scene reveals a lot more than just their naked bodies. The couple is young, optimistic, and in love, making plans to spend the rest of their lives together — at least until desire gets in the way.

Secondly, Burow and Kramer both deliver surprisingly nuanced performances which are somewhat at odds with the languid melodrama that surround them. The first meeting between the two is already charged with tension, their inaugural physical contact loudly signaling their coming libidinous entanglement, even as Maria quickly pulls herself away from Henner’s advances. Conflicting desires permeate Someday: while Maria is torn between the rugged but troubled Henner and the good-natured, occasionally inattentive Johannes, the characters around them either long for the decadent pleasures of the capitalist West or for a return to the stability the socialist East afforded them.

Sadly, issues do come to the fore, usually whenever the film shifts away from Maria and her sexually aggressive inamorato’s passionate hookups. The drama the pair’s star-crossed romance is couched in crawls along at a snail’s pace — the 133-minute runtime is definitely felt — only to arrive at an expectedly tragic conclusion. The narrative predictability might have been less offensive had the film managed anything in the way of absorbing characterizations, but for all the bold physicality of Atef’s direction during the frank love-making sequences, most of what isn’t a sex scene feels oddly lifeless. For one, the intended weight of the central love triangle never quite manages to come through amidst Maria’s inscrutable dreaminess, Henner’s vague trauma, and Johannes’ nice-guy blandness. For another, Someday is riddled with plot threads that go nowhere, most notably Maria’s complicated relationship with her unemployed mother, Hannah (Jördis Triebel), which punctuates the main storyline but ultimately delivers nothing else.

At its best, Someday plays like an alluring antidote to an increasingly chaste cinema landscape, of a piece with Hadas Ben Aroya’s recent, unflinching and even more brazenly sexual, All Eyes Off Me. But while Ben Aroya’s erotic drama supplements its exploration of youthful lust with intriguing psychological opacity — as well as some dark humor — Atef’s take on the subject is ultimately too conventional, broad, and, apart from a few moments of unexpected rough sex, nowhere near provocative enough to meaningfully linger in anyone’s mind.

DIRECTOR: Emily Atef;  CAST: Marlene Burow, Felix Kramer, Cedric Eich, Silke Bodenbender;  DISTRIBUTOR: Strand Releasing;  IN THEATERS: June 7;  RUNTIME: 2 hr. 12 min.

Originally published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 8.5.