No Hard Feelings
As the music pounds and sweaty bodies envelop one another, this German coming-of-age drama leaves no holds barred, depicting with raw explicitness the struggles of being both an immigrant and uncomfortable in one’s sexuality. A feature film debut for director Faraz Shariat, co-written by Paulina Lorenz, No Hard Feelings draws on the 26 year-old’s own personal experiences, presenting an energetic yet dreamlike cinematic journey that, though it doesn’t travel far, explores and reveals so much.
No Hard Feelings premiered at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival, winning the Teddy Award for best LGBTQ-themed feature film in the process. It primarily follows the confident and openly gay Parvis (Benjamin Radjaipour), a young man who has avoided the domestic strain that can emerge from a wild sexuality and appetite, being raised by an accepting Iranian-German family. Parvis is ordered to complete community service at a refugee detention centre – overwhelming work at first that develops into more when he meets immigrants Banafshe (Banafshe Hourmazdi) and her quieter brother Amon (Eidin Jalili). He finds his feelings and heart strings begin to wrap tightly around the latter, forming a deep bond of affection.
Faz Shariat’s film is more a realistic portrayal of adolescent relationships than an adventure, simple in its story and effective in its delivery. Once the young characters’ sexual engagement is sparked, the bleach-blonde Radjaipour and co-star Jalili steer the ship, their sizzling on-screen chemistry beautifully emphasised in exploration of their more intimate moments. No Hard Feelings avoids any clichéd plot mechanisms, choosing to instead invest in the characters and how their relationships develop through everyday events and interactions, much to the benefit of both the viewer and the experience as a whole.
It is boldly ambitious to consider two important themes in tandem, but when handled correctly, as here, the payoff is there for the world to see. For 92 minutes it is wonderful to watch, with stunning cinematography and a lavish, day glo-inspired colour palette; the editing and soundscape are unique and inspired, rocking the viewer back and forth in a cocktail of environments. The main question then is “Is there enough of it?”. What is there is excellent, but the plot lacks organic dramatisation – a greater sense of peril or dilemma that could take it to the next level.
However, as a semi-autobiographical story that is presented with a radical and honest approach, No Hard Feelings really strikes a chord, particularly with lovers of art house and indie cinema. It is a relative success for the young director, and it will be exciting to see what he, and the youthful actors in his cast, can produce in the very near future.
No Hard Feelings is released in select cinemas on 7th December 2020.
Watch the trailer for No Hard Feelings here: