Zurich (Frederik Steiner, 2014)

A scene from Frederik Steiner's Zurich {Photo: ADOPT FILMS}

A scene from Frederik Steiner's Zurich {Photo: ADOPT FILMS}

Zurich screens on Friday, October 10 and Saturday, October 11. Director Frederik Steiner and actor Liv Lisa Fries are scheduled to attend both screenings.  More information can be found at the Chicago International Film Festival's website here. This is a capsule review. A full review will be published upon the film's United States theatrical release. 

While this German melodrama cribs heavily from Josh Boone’s The Fault in Our Stars, Zurich remains earnest in its portrayal of a terminally-ill youth. Most of the credit goes to actress Liv Lisa Fries. She plays Lea, a 20-year old woman contending with cystic fibrosis. Her strained breathing is a penetrating force throughout the picture whereby simple movement wanes heavily on her resolve. Upon consulting with a doctor, Lea’s decision for euthanasia is met by shock from her mother and sister. The picture pivots around Lea’s decision, attempting to have her family come to terms with her painful reality.

Like Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars, Fries deftly strips away any sense of pity in her character. She can be callous and cold, but she’s also very aware of the people around her and how it affects them. As strong a performance that Fries submits, director Frederik Steiner and Zurich scribe Barbara Te Kock don’t quite measure up. The screenplay broadens the central drama outside of Lea’s worldview as a means of producing a more mutli-faceted perspective to how Lea’s decision affects her sister, mother, and grandmother. The problem with that is that it becomes too broad. Instead of magnifying the weightiness of her choice, the perpetual juggling of characters proves too much for Steiner and Te Kock to handle - the picture’s tone is too wild  as a result. And more problematic is the picture’s conclusion, in what’s an incredibly false and somewhat nasty attempt to increase tension. Still, Fries is a true find in Zurich, resembling the bygone charm of a young Marion Cotillard.