LOADING ...

In My Room is a withering character study of the last man on Earth

Oct 09, 2019. 11 comments

Warning: This review contains major plot revelations.


For its first 35 minutes, the German drama In My Room looks like a typical European art film, centered around the sort of congenial fuckup who’s often the subject of a low-budget character study. When we first meet Armin (Hans Löw), a single man in his early 40s, he’s botching his job as a news cameraman, turning the camera on when it’s supposed to be off and vice versa; the footage he brings back from a key political event consists entirely of hurried attempts to get people in focus and blurry motion across the convention floor. Armin’s social life doesn’t seem to be going much better—he succeeds in bringing a woman to his tiny apartment, and she’s clearly interested, until he insists on opening a brand-new toothbrush for her, rather than letting her use his. (“But you want me to put your dick in my mouth?”) A visit to his hometown reveals that his grandmother is terminally ill, while his parents seem to be splitting up due to his father’s open affair with another woman. Obviously, something’s about to shake up this guy’s slightly pitiable life, and, indeed, something does: Every other living human being suddenly disappears.

In My Room

A-
A-

In My Room

Director

Ulrich Köhler

Runtime

120 minutes

Rating

Not Rated

Language

German, English

Cast

Hans Löw, Elena Radonicich

Availability

Select theaters October 11

Having the planet mostly or entirely to oneself has been a popular conceit of late:

Z For Zachariah , I Think We’re Alone Now , Fox’s sitcom The Last Man On Earth. In each of those scenarios, however, the population has been all but wiped out by nuclear war or a pandemic. Almost everyone died. In My Room (presumably titled after the Beach Boys song, in which Brian Wilson’s room is his sanctuary; Armin’s corresponding room has a circumference of 25,000 miles) provides no explanation whatsoever for what happened—not even the vague possibility that’s eventually floated by The LeftoversHBO adaptation. It’s a pure Twilight Zone premise, except that here the uncanniness has been superimposed onto the aforementioned low-key European character study, and the film declines to shift modes after Armin’s world turns upside down. Instead, after briefly observing him wander streets littered with abandoned cars, wondering what to do, In My Room leaps ahead an indeterminate amount of time, to a point at which Armin, now bearded and slimmed down à la Tom Hanks in Cast Away , has created a manageable solo existence. He’s taught himself to farm and sew, has secured a generator, is hard at work on a hydroelectric dam. Given no other choice, this middle-aged ne’er-do-well has proven surprisingly resourceful. Will he share his toothbrush, though?

Written and directed by Ulrich Köhler (and co-produced by Köhler’s romantic partner, Maren Ade, a

superb filmmaker in her own right ), this droll yet poignant amalgam of the fantastic and the mundane ultimately suggests that while people can dramatically alter their behavior in response to extreme circumstances, on some fundamental level they don’t really change. Eventually, inevitably, the film introduces another survivor of the inexplicable event, a singleminded young woman named Kirsi (Elena Radonicich); as the only two people remaining on Earth, so far as either of them knows (and Kirsi, unlike Armin, has searched far and wide), they attempt to build a life together. (Neither speaks the other’s language—Kirsi seems to be Italian—but both of them know English.) The film’s excellent, cruel joke is that their relationship plays out pretty much exactly as it would have had they met under normal circumstances, fracturing on the same big disagreements and petty squabbles. Köhler plants seeds of disillusionment even in joyous moments, like an impromptu dance outside a gas station (with music blaring from the speakers of a big rig Kirsi found); the movie’s final third makes it clear that its first third wasn’t just an unusually prolonged setup, but crucial to our understanding of who Armin is and must remain. “Now it’s dark and I’m alone,” the Beach Boys harmonize, “but I won’t be afraid.” Give them some time.

11 Comments

Suggested posts

Josh Gad doing a bad accent is somehow the least of the annoyances in Disney’s Artemis Fowl Josh Gad doing a bad accent is somehow the least of the annoyances in Disney’s Artemis Fowl

The words “Artemis Fowl” make up a significant chunk of the dialogue in Artemis Fowl. The title character, a child criminal mastermind introduced in ...

Spike Lee goes to Vietnam with his politically muddled war movie Da 5 Bloods Spike Lee goes to Vietnam with his politically muddled war movie Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee’s cultural messaging for once fails him in the politically muddled Da 5 Bloods. With the film, Lee offers his submission to a history of blo...

You Don’t Nomi spotlights the cult of Showgirls, and how a big flop became a midnight sensation You Don’t Nomi spotlights the cult of Showgirls, and how a big flop became a midnight sensation

The smartest thing You Don’t Nomi does is staunchly avoid adopting a single point of view. Those seeking a defense of the notorious 1995 flop Showgir...

Judd Apatow fashions a low-laugh star vehicle for Pete Davidson in The King Of Staten Island Judd Apatow fashions a low-laugh star vehicle for Pete Davidson in The King Of Staten Island

Judd Apatow has made his share of overlong movies, but none as languorously paced as his latest comedy of delayed adulthood and life crisis, The King ...

The director of Rubber returns with a deranged love story between a man and his jacket The director of Rubber returns with a deranged love story between a man and his jacket

Getting older drives men to weird places. Some cope with ink or dye. Others splurge on sports cars. And of course, there’s the timeless ritual of cha...

Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders broods through the familiar Netflix drama All Day And A Night Moonlight’s Ashton Sanders broods through the familiar Netflix drama All Day And A Night

It’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun, and that everybody’s paying tribute to somebody. But Netflix’s latest original movie, All Day And A...

For a 2-hour orgy of S&M and severed limbs, Liberté is pretty tedious For a 2-hour orgy of S&M and severed limbs, Liberté is pretty tedious

In the year 1774, some time before the French Revolution, a group of aristocratic libertines exiled from the court of Louis XVI gather in a secluded ...

Netflix takes another shot at Cyrano de Bergerac with queer love triangle The Half Of It Netflix takes another shot at Cyrano de Bergerac with queer love triangle The Half Of It

“This is not a love story,” introverted high schooler Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) warns us in her opening narration. “Or not one where anyone gets what th...

Beastie Boys Story is no sure shot Beastie Boys Story is no sure shot

What if they made a Beastie Boys movie and it wasn’t any fun? If there were none of the rambunctious spirit that defined the New York trio’s music ev...

True History Of The Kelly Gang writes a powerful fictionalized biography of the outlaw True History Of The Kelly Gang writes a powerful fictionalized biography of the outlaw

It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that as long as there have been movies, there have been movies about Ned Kelly. The 19th-century bushranger, b...

Language