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Berlin, I Love You

Movie review by
Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media
Berlin, I Love You Movie Poster Image
Limp anthology has brief nudity, language, adult themes.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 120 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Messages are undercut by movie's unconvincing nature. But there are themes of generosity in some vignettes, and it takes a stab at solidarity with #MeToo.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A woman who works with refugees is dedicated, opens her heart to a child. An immigrant taxi driver is spirited. A female puppeteer is artistically fulfilled.

Violence

A man punches a woman in the stomach, is then restrained. Talk of a stabbing.

Sex

Brief views of naked breasts. Men and women are shown in their underwear in sexual situations. A stunted sexual encounter. Bordello. Public sexual encounter.

Language

Multiple uses of "f--k," plus "Jesus f---ing Christ," "bitch," "a--hole," "p---y."

Consumerism

BMW and Porsche prominently featured.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink in bars and at home. A 16-year-old drinks beer, which is apparently legal in Germany. He gives an adult he has just met an unidentified drug that he's also presumably taken.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Berlin, I Love You is an entry in the "Cities of Love" series of anthology films, which collect several loosely bound short narratives featuring all-star casts. Some of the vignettes involve romance; some involve crime. Violence is limited to a man punching a woman in the stomach and talk of stabbing. But there's a fair bit of racy content, including naked breasts, characters in their underwear, and sexual encounters. Swearing is also frequent, with multiple uses of "f--k," plus "bitch" and others. The massive cast includes Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Luke Wilson, Diego Luna, Dianna Agron, and many more.

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What's the story?

Do people really go to Berlin, as the narration in BERLIN, I LOVE YOU tells us, for the purpose of falling in love? This drama is the latest in the "Cities of Love" anthology series of films in which short narratives are loosely bound together by virtue of occurring in the same city (previous entries include New York, I Love You and Paris Je T'Aime). Among the stories: A jilted man (Jim Sturgess) wants to die but is rescued by a sentient car; a man hides in a brothel after apparently committing a murder; a worker (Keira Knightley) at a refugee center takes a young boy home to her unsympathetic mother (Helen Mirren); a burned-out Hollywood type (Luke Wilson) is charmed by a puppeteer (Dianna Agron); an aging Lothario (Mickey Rourke) picks up a mysterious woman (Toni Garrn) in a bar; and an immigrant taxi driver (Sibel Kekilli) picks up a nervous American (Iwan Rheon).

Is it any good?

This film's failure is proof that crafting a great short is an underrated skill, and all the star power in the world can’t make up for the lack of it. Berlin, I Love You is all unconvincing romances, nonengaging exposition, and unearned sturm und drang. There's a pandering #MeToo-inspired episode in a fantasy laundromat that climaxes in an unappealing song-and-dance number featuring laboriously worked-in shouts of "Me too!" and "Time's up!" But the film's worst segment is truly objectionable, written by Neil La Bute, directed by Til Schweiger, and starring Rourke and Garrn. The dialogue sounds like someone took speeches from noir seduction scenes, put them in a blender, and gave them to the actors the second before the cameras started rolling. It's hard to tell whether its "shocking" ending is meant to be a twist, but, as it's not surprising in the least, the entire experience of viewing the segment is stomach-turning. Those who don't stop watching after that one won't find the rest of the film particularly redeeming.

The bright spots are few and far between, but there are a few. Kekilli charms as a tough-to-bring-down taxi-driving immigrant in a segment with another Game of Thrones alum, Rheon. Alas, it ends at the moment it becomes about something other than her charisma. A bit with Diego Luna as a drag queen is warm. How the filmmakers got Mirren is a mystery, but clumsy exposition threatens to smother her refugee-crisis piece with Knightley until the exercise is more or less redeemed by a single gesture. If you want to see some fascinating limited-length narratives, the annual crop of Oscar-nominated shorts are usually far more affecting or thought-provoking (and worthy of your support) than anything in Berlin, I Love You.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the "love" entanglements in Berlin, I Love You. Which, if any, were convincing? Did they conform to your ideas of how people fall in love? 

  • How is watching an anthology film different from watching one in which a single story is told? Is it easier or harder to make a good anthology film? How many anthology films have you seen? Of those, how many were really good? 

  • How does the movie portray sex? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

Movie details

For kids who love drama and romance

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