Director: Niklas Bauer
Writer: Niklas Bauer
Starring: Lennora Esi, Marios Gavrilis
There’s a danger in all storytelling of being too obvious. As audiences, we bring our preconceptions and prior experiences to theatres and quite often these can equip us to know exactly where the story is going.
As the familiar pieces fit into their comfortable slots, we realise this is a pattern we’ve seen before. And so, we simply observe as each move plays out towards the inevitable destination. Sometimes this can feel indulgently homely. Normally it’s just boring. On the flipside, throwing a Shyamalan-style whiplash U-turn may work very occasionally, but it too can feel unsatisfactory and, in its own way, inevitable and obvious.
It’s therefore always a pleasure to come across a story which plays with our expectations as subtly and skilfully as Text Me When You Get Home xx. In saying that, I do feel I should add a content warning at this point: the film deals with the perils faced by women travelling alone and the threat of violent male entitlement. That being the context, the possible outcomes we might anticipate are likely very grim indeed.
That subject matter renders this film too much of an uncomfortable watch for some. However, writer/director Niklas Bauer handles the project with a high level of professionalism. The setting is realistic, the dialogue uniformly credible and the acting flawlessly natural and immersive. Lennora Esi, as a passenger using what seems to be an Uber or similar, conveys a huge depth of feeling wordlessly, simple glances or shifts of posture suggesting her growing unease. Meanwhile, the driver played by Marios Gavrilis moves through the conversational gears – from small-talk to an increasingly creepy and invasive tone – without slipping into caricature.
The inside of a car as it trundles through a nondescript part of town may not seem like much of an opportunity for cinematography. But Director of Photography Marc Tressel-Schmitz does everything he needs to with the film’s visuals, unobtrusively enhancing both the realism and the claustrophobia of the scenario. The only ostentatious visual element is the use of graphics to show us what Esi’s character is seeing on her phone. These are brilliantly realised and, thanks to the film’s comprehensive credits, we can also commend visual effects artists Till Georg Schadeck and Kristin Garrelts for their work here.
The way the graphics work in service of the story might often be overlooked in a review; but here it is symptomatic of this project as a whole. Every element enhances the whole without overly drawing attention to itself. Bauer is clearly a very capable film maker, marshalling a talented cast and crew. This is high quality stuff.