The German film "Summer '04" opens with the simplicity of its title: a teenage boy and girl return after a day spent bicycling near the boy's vacation house close to the Baltic Sea. The sun is shining, but innocence is waning. No one knows it, but nothing will ever be quite this bucolic again.
Starring the luminous Martina Gedeck of "The Lives of Others," written by Daniel Nocke and directed by Stefan Krohmer, "Summer '04" is straight ahead in form but unnerving and unexpected in content.
It's an unusual drama, one grounded in the difficulty inherent in intimate relationships, in attempting to read and assess the behavior of others. The unpredictability of its plot demands considerable suspension of disbelief, but if you stick it out to the unforeseen conclusion, the rewards are there. Sticking with this film is not difficult because "Summer '04" is grounded in the lives and psyches of its five-person ensemble.
Gedeck, who played the compromised actress in "The Lives of Others," here becomes Miriam, an assured mother to 15-year-old Nils (Lucas Kotaranin) and vibrant companion to Nils' alpha male father Andre (Peter Davor). Nils has invited his girlfriend Livia (a potent Svea Lohde) to join him in the family's summer house. Not yet 13, Livia is remarkably precocious, with a charm and charisma that is undeniable, even though Nils would often rather watch documentaries on World War I than hang out with her.