24 Wochen (24 Weeks)
Promising director Anna Zohra Berrached returns to the Berlinale with her second feature, 24 Wochen (24 Weeks), which continues down the same path as her breakthrough study of modern motherhood, Zwei Mutter. Astride (Julia Jentsch) is a popular comedian who is expecting her second child with her husband and manager, Markus (Bjarne Mädel). However, once the couple find out that the baby will be born with Down Syndrome, they are given the arduous choice of either keeping it or undergoing a late term abortion.
Astride and Markus initially decide to keep the baby and the reactions they receive from friends and family, who are uncomfortable or confused, are a great well for dramatic tension. However, this drama suffers from dialogue that is heavy-handed and tone deaf. There are moments where Berrached comes close to touching upon raw emotional grit, only to sacrifice it for an easy joke. The cinematography is both lacklustre and sloppy, creating a daytime TV film aesthetic that only further undermines the delicate subject matter. The second act is somewhat redemptive, when it is revealed that the baby will also require immediate heart surgery after labour. This news forces Astride away from her husband to the realisation that it is ultimately her choice. Her doubt and turmoil are well articulated by Jentsch, who slips disconcerting looks while transitioning between the stage and back to reality. Her stage persona glosses over all the anxieties and doubts her true self harbours.
The greatest challenge the new baby presents shakes the foundations of the family unit and it is compelling to watch how the mother’s relationships with her husband and daughter evolve throughout the film. 24 Weeks has the potential to be an intelligent investigation of a moral dilemma, offering a feminist perspective, but is ultimately hamstrung by a formulaic script and a lack of visual consistency.
24 Wochen (24 Weeks) does not yet have an official UK release date.
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Watch the trailer for 24 Wochen (24 Weeks) here: