The Black Forest (4 stars)

The Black Forest

EIFF 2019: Ruth Platt's second film is a beautifully balanced family drama about a fraught holiday

The hills are alive with the sound of feuding in this heartfelt drama from sophomore writer-director Ruth Platt which pursues a pair of British families as they head to the titular region of Germany for a much-needed getaway. Once there, mild annoyances and merriment give way to potentially marriage-ending revelations.

It might all kick off eventually but, for the most part, actor-turned-filmmaker Platt (following up her 2015 debut The Lesson) directs with a beautiful sense of balance. From the opening scene, where sleeping kids are gently bundled into a car, it pits these precious childhood years against the difficult business of adult decision-making.

The grown-ups in question are Beth and Darko (Hattie Ladbury and Aleksandar Mikic) and Maggie and Jack (Sirine Saba and Robert Hands). With the former boasting an organised approach to travel plans and the latter flying by the seat of their pants, they should be a holidaying match made in hell as they congregate at a swish chalet, but instead they muddle through fairly amiably. Platt has a nice line in believably complicated characters, with the slightly stressfully controlling Beth actually out to maximise her children's enjoyment and highly attuned to their needs, while even the most reckless adult actions are born of understandable frustrations.

If some of the interactions are a little rough around the edges, there's a touch of the Joanna Hoggs to the strained relations of the ostensibly affluent, though Platt favours a looser directorial style and, tonally, her film is much warmer. Steeped with romance and nostalgia for children's way of seeing and enjoying the world, it's remarkably authentic in the way it depicts kids at play and is punctuated with radiant interludes, gorgeously soundtracked by French singer/songwriter Julsy, which exhilaratingly capture what it's like to be carefree.

Anxiety about Brexit bubbles away in the background but doesn't overshadow what is, at its heart, a simple and relatable story of the competing pressures of family life, buoyed by love for its little people.

Screening on Thu 27 and Sat 29 Jun as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2019. General release TBC.

The Black Forest

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • UK
  • 1h 24min
  • Directed by: Ruth Platt
  • Cast: Robert Hands, Hattie Ladbury, Aleksandar Mikic, Sirine Saba

Writer-director Ruth Platt’s impressive drama will be amusingly familiar to anyone who’s headed abroad for child-friendly holidays with another family. A love letter to Europe, The Black Forest follows a pair of dysfunctional families spending a welcome summer break in deepest Germany. While the children get lost in their…