11th October 2019 6.15pm at Ciné Lumière
The truth hurts. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. No pain, no gain. These are all sayings that come to mind when conjuring up the titular protagonist from Jan Ole Gerster’s latest feature. She’s the definition of tough love: overbearing and caustically critical, Lara is determined that the only way to be a good parent is to be honest – even if it’s dream-shattering.
Viktor (Tom Schilling) is about to debut his first composition. And yet his own mother Lara (Corinna Harfouch), the woman who pushed him towards his music career, teeters on the fringes of his life. Clinging onto the shreds of her relationship, Lara buys out all the remaining tickets. But as she tears them away for ex-colleagues, ex-teachers, neighbours and even strangers, her gesture is gradually exposed as empty, desperate, a last-ditch attempt to justify the damage she has done.
This film is a cyclical and unrelenting story of toxic family ties. It’s not easy to watch a mother self-destruct so catastrophically, but keeping us rapt through every tragic turn of the wheel is the captivating Harfouch. Her fast quips and self-satisfied smiles subtly disintegrate as the actress masterfully uncovers Lara’s suppressed desires. Though the character’s cold and derisive manner become increasingly alienating, the final act wrenches us back with heartbreaking force as her true ambitions are mercilessly exposed.
Aptly, both shots and soundtrack are skilfully composed to reflect two mirrored lives shaped by music. Pianos are central, from clunky renditions of Für Elise to concert-hall performances. Silence echos through scenes, amplifying the space between Lara and those around her. The careful framing of bleak concrete architecture reflects a dreary, lonely existence, while moving keys are charged with dynamism. Lara stands voyeuristically outside glamorous shop fronts. Spending has become a substitute for love, her only form of self-care.
Glimmering lights shine outside an open window, a dream that’s just out of reach. If you leap, you may make it; you may fall. But if you don’t try, you will never know. Viktor’s story is the light to Lara’s shadow: he is breaking free from her, and the possibilities are palpable. In the final shot of this movie, Lara’s frustration explodes, both beautiful and utterly devastating, a glimpse of Whiplash-style passion and its psychological cost.
Lara does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Lara here: