Film: The Coming Days

Interesting German science fiction drama The Coming Days (2010) starts promisingly, but fizzles out down the home stretch. In the near future, Europe is in crisis thanks to energy woes, immigration problems, and unstable political conditions in neighboring regions. Against this backdrop, two sisters from a wealthy family find themselves on different paths: responsible Laura (Bernadette Heerwagen) wants to pursue a degree, get married, and have a child, while Cecilia (Johanna Wokalek) is lured into a political movement by her edgy boyfriend Konstantin (August Diehl). While Laura is busy trying to build a conventional, happy life with retired, bookish lawyer Hans (Daniel Brühl), Cecilia’s involvement with the extremist Black Storm group escalates into a radical, full-blown attempt to save the Earth—by dismantling civilization.

The Coming Days is an intriguing watch, and attempts some ambitious worldbuilding in its decade-long depiction of the collapse of the European Union. Its futuristic furniture is minimal, but effectively deployed, and it deftly uses science fictional themes to examine existential questions. The narrative strategy is also clever, as we follow one character living towards a future society that another is actively trying to destroy. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t really pay off structurally, sputtering out in an ugly finale that doesn’t integrate the science fictional content and the human drama as well as the rest of the film. I suspect the messy ending is part of the point, but that doesn’t make it any more satisfying. It’s unfortunate, because it’s an attractive, ambitious film that’s well performed, with Heerwagen standing out in something of a proxy role for the average viewer. A stronger ending might have elevated it to greatness; as it is, it’s still worth watching, but with a disappointing aftertaste.

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